The King of the Rwenzururu Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere has been charged today with a March 2016 murder in a Jinja court and remanded in prison until December 13.
After his arrest in Kasese on Sunday, Mumbere appeared in public for the first time Tuesday and was charged with murder, contrary to sections 188 and 189 of the Penal Code Act.
The particulars of the offence are that Mumbere and others at large on March 24, 2016 in Kasese murdered a one Police officer No 53221 PC Geofrey Kasimba.
Mumbere has been accused of backing a militia, allegedly including members of his royal guard, which had launched attacks against Ugandan security forces while agitating for the creation of their own state called the Yiira Republic.
The state was represented in Court by the Jinja Resident State Attorney, Grace Nabaggala Ntege. Mumbere was represented by attorney David Bwambale.
Meanwhile, Ugandan police said that another 25 bodies had been recovered after weekend fighting, bringing the death toll to 87.
Police had earlier reported 16 police officers and 46 royal guards were killed in the fighting that broke out in the Rwenzururu kingdom and saw security forces storm the palace to arrest King Charles Wesley Mumbere on Sunday.
How Mumbere was arrested
Police and army officers stormed Mumbere’s palace in the western town of Kasese on Sunday in a hail of gunfire and explosions, dragging him out and placing him under arrest after he failed to accept an ultimatum to disband his royal guards, the authorities have said.
According to police, fighting first broke out on Saturday when a joint patrol of police and troops was attacked by the royal guards and quickly spread to surrounding towns.
Kasese district police commander Sam Odong told AFP another 25 bodies had been found on Monday in towns outside Kasese, however it was not clear whether they were civilians or royal guards.
Another 139 guards have been arrested.
Amnesty International on Monday expressed alarm at what “appears to be shocking examples of unlawful killings and a complete disregard for human rights during the arrests”.
A modern kingdom
The Rwenzururu kingdom, of the Bakonzo tribe, is a modern one.
It began as a separatist movement of the same name when the Bakonzo — tired of being subjected to the rule of another tribe given preference under British rule — declared its own kingdom in 1962.
The move led to years of bloodshed until a settlement was reached in 1982 in which the movement laid down arms in return for a degree of local autonomy.
President Yoweri Museveni officially recognised the kingdom in 2009.
However, many in the region still feel marginalised by the government and want to create their own state known as the Yiira Republic, uniting the Bakonzo and its sister tribe, the Banande, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister General Jeje Odongo told a press conference that “claims and counter-claims over land rights between the Bakonzo and other communities is alleged to be one other cause of the conflict” in the region.
He said a wave of attacks was carried out in 2014, leaving nearly 100 people dead — mostly attackers from a group known as “Youth of the Kingdom”.
“In the recent wave of violence the attackers have graduated into a militia which is trained, uniformed, armed, camped, and under a command and control structure. This new structure is composed of “KilhumiraMutima” (the stronghearted and keepers of a secret),” he said.
He said regional security authorities met on November 21 to decide to dismantle camps set up by the militia, spurring a surge of attacks on police stations and posts in the region by the fighters who retreated into the palace.
Odongo said machine guns, pistols, machetes, spears and petrol bombs had been found in the palace.
Guards offered amnesty
The kingdom has denied any links to the alleged militia.
“At the moment the institution is not ready to give a statement,” said palace spokesman Clarence Bwambale.
“We can’t have the figures of our people killed because we have been denied access to the palace… but definitely we lost many people.”
Kasese district commissioner James Mwesigye on Tuesday offered amnesty to members of the royal guards and alleged militia who turned themselves in, saying they would “be handled as children who went astray and have returned to the fold”.
“We don’t want to see more bloodshed,” said Bwambale. “Come and hand yourselves in because we want to see you alive, the heroes are those who are alive.”