Kasese District headquarters are located about three kilometers from Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu Palace.
Heavily guarded by police and security officers in plain-clothes, click http://crijpa.fr/wp-admin/includes/class-wp-list-table.php the building structure houses important officials that run the affairs of Kasese which shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
When militants stormed Kasese town, treat hacking police and military officers, security at the building was reinforced.
It’s here that ChimpReports met with Kasese Mayor Godfrey Kabyanga – a straightforward, open-minded and walking encyclopedia on the Rwenzururu movement.
During his youthful days, Kabyanga was among the leaders of popular movements demanding government’s recognition of Rwenzururu as a Kingdom.
Perceived as a radical and uncompromising militant, Kabyanga was eventually arrested and jailed. Every time he was set free, Kabyanga would resume his agitation for Obusinga.
This won him praise in Kasese and earned him a special relationship with Rwenzururu leader, Wesley Mumbere. They have been friends since, regularly discussing contentious issues that affect the region.
When I walked into his office in the wake of the December attacks in Rwenzori, Kabyanga struck me as an amiable and thoughtful administrator.
“The excitement is going down. What you are covering was the apex of a simmering conflict,” he said.
“I was for Obusinga. I was jailed thrice. It’s not a good experience,” he added.
Following years of talks, negotiations and a commission of inquiry led by Henry Kajura, it was agreed to grant Obusinga recognition.
“There were two camps – one for Obusinga which I belonged to and another against the recognition of Obusinga, led by Hon Crispus Kiyonga. Much as we agreed, there was suspicion between the two camps,” Kabyanga recollected.
The Rwenzururu fighters would eventually lay down arms to chart a new path for the Kingdom whose leader Eriya Mukirane had sought in 1962 when he protested the Tooro Kingdom oppression at the Orukurato.
Supporters of Obusinga would eventually support Reform Agenda which metamorphosed into FDC while the likes of Kiyonga were NRM diehards.
“The political divided was fully created,” he observed, adding, “There was a lot of suspicion especially towards Kiyonga. No one in Mumbere’s camp trusted him due to his initial opposition to the recognition of Obusinga.”
And more interestingly, inside the Obusinga, officials were not seeing eye to eye.
“There was a camp which believed in retaining the military structures of the Rwenzururu and its entire administration which they called a government,” said Kabyanga.
The elderly Old Guard, which had fought decisive battles in the ice-cold mountains of Rwenzori, handed over guns but retained hundreds of ‘scouts’.
Realising the need to have professional guards, Kabyanga and his colleagues in the Rwenzururu urged IGP Gen Kale Kayihura to train them. They would provide professional services to the King.
There wasn’t much acrimony until around 2012.
The then Security Minister, Sulait Kule was sacked. Many in the Kingdom suspected him of being close to security forces.
The moderate Kule was replaced with Besweli who was deputed by Elisha Mberemu.
“The new ministers were radicals. They changed everything. They said every sub-county should have a royal guard and raise the Kingdom’s flag,” said Kabyanga.
“Then they decided that each sub-county should raise 30 guards. All of a sudden, the Rwenzururu guard started swelling. We would see them walking with pangas to the palace,” he added.
If Mumbere’s men thought this was a good idea of displaying their might, it was a matter of time before the whole exercise would crash.
The Royal Guards’ actions unsettled security.
“The thought by showing loyalty to the King, they were untouchable,” recalled Kasese RDC, James Mwesigye.
Concerned elders, government officials and moderates in the Kingdom started holding informal meetings about the Rwenzururu militia.
Some of them warned Mumbere of grave consequences if he fell short of checking the actions of the militia.
Kabyanga, Christopher Kibanzanga and Crispus Kiyonga in 2013 met with Mumbere at his palace.
“We told the King that patience is running out,” said Kabyanga.
The King’s issue was that the government was splitting his kingdom into chiefdoms for the Bamba and Basongora.
In fact when the Basongora installed their leader in 2012, the Rwenzururu militia attacked his palace at Muhocha.
The Basongora regalia were taken away by ‘Esyomango syo Businga’. A week later, the militia unsuccessfully tried to kill the Basongora’s King.
“It was a tense moment for all of us. The militia spread out to Bundibugyo in an organized system,” said Kabyanga, adding, “That’s when their true colours came out.”
Angered by the Rwenzururu’s militancy, the Basongora and Bamba decided to act decisively.
When Mumbere announced plans to visit Kasenyi in Bundibugyo, the Bamba vowed war.
For the first time, Mumbere stared down on the possibility of losing not only loyalty of the Bamba but also territory and influence.
This resistance from the Bamba was not something Mumbere and his hardened Council of Elders would tolerate.
The Bamba had had to be beaten, defeated and subdued.
Mumbere dispatched Christopher Kibanzanga, Kabyanga and Col Dura Mawa to meet with Obudingiya officials in Bundibugyo Town.
Due to prescheduled commitments, Col Mawa returned to Kasese before end of the meeting.
The Bamba Ministers told Mumbere’s delegation that that, “Over 2,000 people are training in the Mountains. They train from the DRC mountains at night before returning during the day.”
Mumbere’s naïve delegation thought the Bamba Ministers were narrating rehearsed tales until an aide knocked on the door of the meeting room, saying, “The Bakonzo are coming. They are descending from the mountains.”
Kabyanga said the Bamba’s King was at the palace when the Rwenzururu militia attacked.
The fighters were repelled with gunfire.
The Rwenzururu delegation was enraged by the attack.
“We were very frank with Mumbere that this was unacceptable. How could he tell his men to attack the Bamba where were holding peace talks?” wondered Kabyanga.
Mumbere responded: “Those people told me they would only hold a demonstration.”
Kabyanga fired back: “If you preferred demonstrations, why did you send us to talk peace? You are not straight-forward.”
The Rwenzururu militia decided to storm security installations, slaughtering police officers and stealing their guns.
The worst mistake that broke the militants’ spine was an attack on Kanyamirima barracks during which scores of fighters were felled by a hail storm machine gun bullets.
The attack on the barracks did not only rattle President Museveni. On the other hand, Mumbere had sent a signal about his people’s readiness to shed blood for their kingdom if government remained adamant on supporting the Basongora and Bamba in Rwenzori.
In meetings at his residences, Museveni quietly told allies that Mumbere was unknowingly playing games with a dagger.
It was a matter of time for the two men’s showdown. The stage was set.
Following the attacks, government gave the fighters amnesty. But they never received a financial package to start a new life.
Recruitment of fighters continued.
“We suspected external influence. The fighters were moving in military formations. They started stealing guns. They had special killing methods. The victims had their throats or wrists slit before succumbing to over bleeding,” said Kabyanga.
The Obusinga deny being used as a tool of foreign groups much as ADF is currently commanded by a Mukonzo following the arrest of the group’ Supreme leader, Jamil Mukulu.
Following the July 2014 attacks, government did not reprimand Mumbere much as the Prime Minister was arrested and charged.
This reinforced the view that Mumbere had supernatural powers and remained untouchable.
Dozens of Congolese witchdoctors flooded Kasese where they charged people Shs 10,000 for fetishes to protect them from bullets.
“They would use a razor blade to cut your hand before smearing it with herbs. This was a sign of initiation in the Yiira State. So, whoever was cut would be told to cut others at Shs 10,000 as additional members of the state. It became a booming business in Kasese,” said Kabyanga.
Irrespective of these challenges, Kabyanga, Kibanzanga, continued meeting Mumbere, urging him to avoid a confrontation with the state.
“We told him this is too much.”
At one meeting, the Chief of Staff, Maj General Wilson Mbadi, travelled from Kampala to meet with Mumbere.
In the meeting were Kibanzanga, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, Mbadi, Kabyanga, Mumbere and senior Rwenzururu officials.
“Mbadi asked Mumbere: ‘What’s your problem? Why don’t you disband the militia? Why not chase them?”’
Mumbere responded, firmly: “Museveni has brought witchdoctors from Nigeria. He wants to kill me.”
The meeting came to a standstill.
But Mumbere was still speaking his mind: “Museveni stayed in Karunguru. There were witchdoctors. I know it. The President wants to kill me.”
Everyone was too stunned to leave their chairs.
The head of a cultural institution making such allegations against the head-of-state and commander-in-chief was the least Mbadi could tolerate.
“Mbadi was not only shocked but also disturbed and enraged. He couldn’t believe what he heard. Mbadi nearly stormed out of the meeting. Someone prevailed over that tense situation,” recalled Kabyanga.
At the rank of Colonel, Mbadi served as Museveni’s ADC for almost a decade before being hurriedly promoted to lead the army’s administration.
His position as ADC gave Mbadi a rare opportunity to attend high level and secret security meetings.
It also gave him a unique chance to understand Museveni’s unknown traits.
At the end of the meeting, Mbadi told his colleagues that Mumbere was a prisoner of witchcraft which was not only dangerous to him but also his people and national security.
Many gave up on engaging the King but Kiyonga persisted.
But still this did not materialize, leading to clashes in Kasese this year and eventual arrest of Omusinga.