By FRANCIS Happy Muhindo & DAVID Mugarra
Bubukwanga Sub County in Bundibugyo district has been one of the most conflict prone sub counties in district.
Controversy started during the February 2016 general elections- especially for the position of the district chairperson. It is in Bubukwanga where both the then incumbent district chairperson (Mr. Jolly Tibemanya) and now the Chairperson elect Mr. Mutegeki Ronald faced off in a grueling race that was later to degenerate into a tribal conflict
The sub county which was allegedly a stronghold of Mr Tibamanya could not comprehend a Mutegki win. As the results begun to trickle-in, there were varying pronouncements in the partial results. At some point it was reported that tibamanya was in the lead, only for the returning officer to later declare Mutegeki the eventual winner after annulling the results from Bubukwanga. This situation immediately turned violent and spread throughout the district claiming a lot of lives. Notwithstanding other underlying factors the situation turned tribal. Mr. Mutegeki whose mother is Mukonzo was viewed as an outsider in the sub county which is predominantly Bamba-Babwisi. Local leaders there led by the LC Chairperson organized communities to bar the newly elected chairperson from conducting official activities in the sub county.They also vowed never to recognize him as their district chairperson or ever go to his office for assistance
As the situation got tenser, KRC in close collaboration with the Community based Peace actors monitored the situation through the online platform and learnt that the area was a hot spot for violent conflicts in the district. Having assessed the situation KRC conducted a number of interventions using various entry points.
The very first approach involved using a group of eminent persons led by Rt. Rev. Reuben Kisembo Bishop of Ruwenzori Diocese who was accompanied by Rtd. Bishop Masereka of South Rwenzori Diocese, Pr. Maate Joseph of the SDA, Prof. Edward Rugumayo, Ms. Christine Muhindo Presidential Advisor Rwenzori region and Mr. Julius Mwanga who led the KRC team. These had one-on-one sessions with all leaders who won and those who lost including reaching out to the Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba. The discussions successfully formed a basis for other engagements.
KRC further conducted collaborative interventions like under the tree inter tribal dialogues in Bubukwanga and Tookwe Sub Counties where it was agreed that smaller contextualized discussions would be conducted between the LC V and the sub county leadership and a few supporters of Mr. Mutegeki the (Current District Chairperson) and Jolly (former District chairperson) to agree on how to allow a mutual process.
KRC was later to organize another meeting/dialogue involving supporters of both conflicting leaders where the former Chairperson was represented by the Bubukwanga LC III Chairperson, Bundibugyo Elders Forum and religious leaders including two Bishops at Hotel Vanilla 22nd September 2016. The new district chairperson attended in person. At this meeting, it was resolved that the sub county leadership together with the supporters of Mutegeki and Jolly mobilize and organize other supporters for a bigger meeting that was referred to as “the Triumphant Entry to Bubukwanga” KRC continued with small focus meetings with the local communities, Sub County leaders and key individuals to deeply asses the situation and lay strategies of de-escalating it.
Shortly after in December the LC III Chairperson Bubukwanga Mr. Amos organized a community meeting and invited KRC to witness the chairman entering Bubukwanga for the very first time in 10 months since he was elected to office.
The chairman, in the Company of the RDC entered Bubukwanga and spoke to his people. His time in Bubukwanga was referred to as a ‘Relief’ by most community members.
The meeting opened another chapter –as the Mr. Mutegeki can now freely go to Bubukwanga and Tookwe Sub Counties. The LCIII Chairperson Bubukwanga recently remarked at a community peace dialogue on 16th January 2017 that; We thank KRC for the Peace intervention, not only in Bubukwanga and Tookwe but in the entire region and specifically Bundibugyo district. As Bubukwanga, we are now peaceful. We are now at peace with Hon. Mutegeki the LCV Chairman and he is free to reach any part of this Sub County. Just recently we were with him at a funeral place for close to 3 days…”
This in the history of Bundibugyo has become a great milestone both in the leadership and in the community. KRC continues to watch the space of the interactions of the leadership and the communities in terms of co-existence, reconciliation and harmonious living