- RWENZURURU QUEEN HOSTS HOLDS ROYAL DINNER
- VISITS KRC, VOWS TO PUSH FOR PEACE IN THE RWENZORI REGION
By John Murungi Amooti and Busiinge Chris
The tough looking royal guards, smartly dressed in their Rwenzururu attire, took vintage positions-as the motorcade carrying the amiable and benign queen of the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu Kingdom pulled into the drive-way at KRC Offices, Fort portal. This was not just an ordinary visit the queen was making. Not at all-as the soft spoken light-skinned queen made it clear to all, that enough blood had been shed -and it was time to heal the wounds among the various ethnicities in the Rwenzori Region, and work together to bring lasting peace.
Though Queen Agnes Ithungu visit on the morning of 16th November 2016 was meant to be a courtesy call on KRC, it ended up being a serious interaction on matters of Regional Peace and Development
The Queen was received by over 30 members of the Board and Staff, led by the Executive Director, Mr. Julius Mwanga who could not hide his delight as he hailed the Queen and applauded the Rwenzururu Kingdom for the initiatives they have taken to improve the livelihoods of the people and the recently launched Peace initiative under the Rwenzururu Nyabaghole Foundation(RWENFOD), to foster peaceful co-existence in the Rwenzori region.
The initiative was started by the Rwenzururu King, Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema Ngoma and the queen with an aim of fostering peace and development in the Region.
In his message the KRC director observed the need for every stakeholder to take the mantle and promote peace for sustainable development amidst the national developmental agenda. He said KRC was committed to fostering peace and unity –as exuded through its many years of mobilizing various stakeholders to solve the various conflicts in the Region in the last 2 decades
Mr. Mwanga decried the rampant conflicts in the region and was bitter with those who propagate them along tribal lines. He said those were negative forces against development
‘if you want to know that our region is well endowed with enormous resources, then visit Karamoja. That’s when you will know our land is so blessed with fertile soils. Its all green while other regions are dry’. So lets harness the opportunities we have to bring peace and harmony in our region. Said Mr. Mwanga in reference to the great potential the region has to become the food basket of the country
Maurice Barnes, who sits on KRC board, applauded the queen for her efforts in promoting peaceful co-existence among the kingdom subjects and the region at large.
She stressed that Rwenzururu Royal Guards are not warriors but guards of the royal family of OBR.
The queen also said that without peace the beautiful and rich resources of the region would not be beneficial to the locals in the region. ‘Short or tall, black or white complexion, we are one’ Said the queen, as she called upon the various ethnicities in the region to come together despite the intrinsic differences amongst them
The Queen revealed that the Kingdom was undertaking various developmental projects which included: poverty alleviation initiatives, youth development programs, health and economic improvement.
The Queen also told her attentive audience that she, on an annual basis hold a campfire for the youth, meant to mentor them culturally and give them life skills,-the equivalent of the famed Ekisakate in Buganda
She pledged to participate in the upcoming youth campfire and provide career guidance to the participants.
KRC had earlier during a fundraising dinner hosted by the queen in Kasese pledged One Million shillings towards the work of the foundation. The cheque was officially handed to the queen during her visit . The 20 year KRC has been working with various development partners like DGF and USAID-SAFE to bring together various stakeholders in the quest for lasting peace in the Rwenzori Region
The peace dinner was organized under her initiative, Nyabaghole Development Foundation, a development initiative that she initiated in 2011. The dinner the first of its kind was graced by the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rt. Hon.Alitwala Rebecca Kadaga. In attendance was the leader of Opposition in parliament, Hon. Winnie Kiiza, and area members of Parliament from Kasese district.
The Nyabaghole peace dinner comes at the time when the region is engulfed in several violence episodes, with the recent ones happening in late November.
It must be recalled that in 2014 and election related violence after the 2016 general elections, cultural institutions, especially Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu and Obudinghiya Bwa Bwamba were allegedly implicated in having contributed to the violence. The Obusinga were particularly blamed because of their royal guards that were alleged to have participated in the violence.
The Nyabaghole who is the wife to the Omusinga, of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, Mumbere Wesley, currently jailed on charges of murder called upon every stakeholder to join hands and work together to build sustainable peace. In her speech, the speaker of parliament thanked the Nyabaghole for the peace initiative and appealed to the people in the region to cease any hostilities for the sake of women and children. “In any conflict, it is the women and children who suffer the most- and it important to think about the fruits of peace before instigating conflict.”
The executive director of KRC, Mr. Julius Mwanga, appealed to leaders at all levels to promote peace instead of dividing people for their own good. He reminded them of the urgent need to foster reconciliation among the people who were affected by the conflict. Ms. Bihunirwa Medius presented the communiqué from the Rwenzori Peace Women Forum- an Initiative recently founded out of the gender training of women leaders funded by USAID-SAFE and held in collaboration with KRC. She said that the initiative was looking forward to work with the Nyabaghole Development Foundation.
While in Fort Portal, the Queen was also hosted to a sumptuous breakfast by the KRC Team, at Mountains of the Moon Hotel where a number of resolutions and action points were agreed upon. These included inter alia;
1.Joint fundraising for peace and other community development programmes,Training of the royal guards in conflict sensitivity and saving and credit
2. Organizing and facilitating a meeting between the Queen of Toro and the Queen of OBR and later the two will meet the princess of OBB
3.Support Rwenzururu Nyabaghole Foundation (RWENFOD) to develop a strategic plan
4 Support the queen effectively integrate gender in her development programmes
The current conflicts in the Rwenzori Region took a nose-dive and degenerated into a tribal crescendo after the February elections, mainly in Kasese and Bundibugyo Districts. This was exacerbated by lack of a coherent approach towards addressing the issues-as various ethnicities begun making counter accusations.
It’s now hoped that with Rwenzururu Kingdom coming in to take lead in resolving the conflicts, then there is a ray of hope.
It must be recalled that the skirmishes which begun in July 2014, when spontaneous attacks were recorded in Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko district where hitherto friendly neighbors turned swords againt one another over tribal and political differences
These clashes mainly pitted the Bakonzo against erstwhile friends the Bamba/Babwisi as they clashed and maimed each other. Most sources claimed the clashes were exacerbated by the establishment of a rival cultural institution in Bundibugyo and yet Mumbere was the defacto leader of both tribes, having inherited the then Rwenuzuru Movement-which had broken from Tooro, from his father Isaya Mukirane, in the 60s. The two tribes of Bamba and Bakonzo fought Tooro jointly and broke away to form their own kingdom . Even when government was recognizing the Obusinga bwa Rwenzuru later in the 2000s, he was called the King of Bakonjo and Bamba.
However the relationship got estranged as the Bamba demanded their own separate kingdom –which they were granted around early 2014 and installed their own king Lt Colonel Kamya. This is said to have not gone well the Rwenzururu leadership and supporters, thus the clashes. Various efforts by the government team led by Capt Mike Mukula later yielded results when the two kings met and signed a memorandum to work together for peace.
But as ludicrous as all paradoxes come as we filed this story, the conundrum re-occurred. The hitherto seemingly returning to normal situation spiraled again into an all out clash as the royal guards engaged in fire exchange with government forces. The skirmish has so far claimed over 70 people, and the number is expected to raise in the coming days. This current clash was reportedly ignited by an attack on security forces as they did routine patrols in Kasese Town, by a group of royal guards who were manning security at the Rwenzururu Kingdom offices.The security forces retaliated by storming King Mumbere’s palace and arresting him and hundreds of his royal guards(A more detailed account will be provided in the coming editions-Edtior)
KRC has since the clashes unfolded is working with its partners, mainly DGF and USADID-SAFE to come up with interventions aimed at pushing for dialogue and sensitization of the various ethnicities in the Region not to turn these clashes tribal and begin killing one another