Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Rwenzururu Kingdom veterans have asked Gen Salim Saleh, a brother to President Yoweri Museveni to facilitate the freedom of Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere.
Mumbere, together with close to 200 of his loyalists, was arrested on November 27, 2016, after a confrontation between the military and Rwenzururu Kingdom Royal Guards, which claimed more than 100 lives. He was later charged with 41 counts of murder, attempted murder, terrorism, treason, arson and malicious damage.
Although he was later granted bail, Mumbere’s movement is restricted in the districts of Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono. His loyalists remain incarcerated in Kirinya Government Prison, Jinja. Early this week, Mumbere petitioned the International Crimes Division of High Court to relax his bail terms and conditions and allow him free movement, across the country.
The same plea was fronted by Rwenzururu veterans, during a meeting held with a cross-section of government officials at Kasese Multipurpose Hall last evening. Organized under the auspices of Busongora Development Forum (BDF), the veterans argued that it was high time Mumbere and his subjects were granted absolute freedom in order to allow restoration of peace in the region.
One of the veterans Yofesi Thembo said that Rwenzururu subjects are still restless over the incarceration of their people. Thembo, who covered his message in the analogy of the prodigal son, appealed to Gen Saleh to secure the freedom of Mumbere and his subjects.
Translation; “My lord, I want to say one story, there was one child who asked for his share of wealth from his father, however, he eventually could not manage the wealth after receiving the share and so he became so poor that he couldn’t even afford decent meals. He eventually returned home and sought forgiveness. I want to appeal to you and also send you to the president to release the king and his subjects that continue suffering in prison like the other child.”
Thembo added that many Rwenzururu veterans continue to suffer in abject poverty and called for a special programme to enable them to lead decent lives. His plea was supported by Paul Byakatonda, a former military instructor who indicated that whereas veterans in many parts of the country have been given attention; those of the Rwenzori have remained unattended to.
Atanus Masereka, a leader of the Rwenzururu Veterans Development Association says that there are more than 40,000 veterans in the Rwenzori region who need to be settled as a key step in pacifying the Rwenzori.
“Since we left the fight, the government has never honoured her pledges to us. We pray that we are settled, this could also help in solving the problems of this region.
Rwenzururu Kingdom Chief Prince and Minister of State for Agriculture Christopher Kibanzanga appealed to the veterans to be ambassadors of peace in the region. Kibanzanga said the kingdom will never rise if the people do not appreciate the need for peaceful co-existence within the region.
Gen Saleh told the group that strides have been made towards resolving the Rwenzori stalemate and pointed to a report of the dialogue team between government and the Rwenzururu Kingdom which was forwarded to the president for appropriate action.
Saleh also apportioned blame on political leaders from Kasese whom he accused of continuing failure to work with the dialogue team to find a lasting solution to the violence.
He also quickly added that the veterans should appreciate the fact that he is not in prison.
concurred with the veterans that there is a need to improve their welfare and appealed to the Ministry of Defense And Veteran Affairs to give special attention to the veterans within the Rwenzori.