The return of His Majesty Charles Mumbere Iremangoma, The King of the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR) Cultural Institution, marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Bakonzo people, and more specifically, the Rwenzururu Kingdom’s relationship with the government in power, as well as with other cultural Institutions both within and outside the country. This ear of improved relations also extends to other ethnic groups, academic institutions, security agencies, and Civil society groups, all of which can play a role in facilitating reconciliation between the OBR and the government.
The process of mending these facets necessitates a comprehensive overhaul in the perception and pursuit of various structural components within the OBR cultural institution. This includes a reevaluation of the top administration, the central and community-based structures, and the entire body of subjects within the institution. This new era of improved relations calls for a more constructive and people-centric transformation. In other words, there is a need to shift from radicalism to reformism in terms of ideology. It is crucial to recognize that there has been a history of violence, stretching from the early days of the Rwenzururu Movement to the tragic events of the November 2016 raid on the Rwenzururu palace. This raid resulted in the loss of over 100 lives, the destruction of the palace, and the extended imprisonment of the Omusinga for more than six years until his return on October 4th. To mend these fractured relationships, it is essential to dedicate significant efforts to fostering interethnic unity, conducting well-guided intercultural dialogues, and engaging in discussions with cultural and interethnic groups, security agencies, and local and central governments. It is crucial to acknowledge the pressing need to transition from the errors of the past, particularly during the initial stages of the Rwenzururu Kingdom establishment, towards a fresh approach that prioritizes dialogue, reconciliation, interethnic harmony, and the implementation of Victim-Responsive Transitional Justice (TJ).
In 2009, Uganda achieved a significant milestone by passing the National Transitional Justice Policy (NTJP). This policy offers a glimmer of hope to the victims of both past and recent conflicts in their noble quest for justice. The NTJP comprehensively addresses the legal and institutional framework for investigations, prosecutions, and trials within the formal system, as well as the critical aspects of reparations and alternative justice approaches. These elements are categorized into five key areas: formal justice, traditional justice, nation-building, reconciliation, amnesty, and reparations. The ultimate objective of the NTJP is to pave the way for peace, stability, and enhanced social cohesion in Uganda. In order to achieve this, it is essential that the OBR institution and the government collaboratively embrace and implement this approach while mending broken relationships
The land question remains of paramount significance in the evolving era of new relationships and within the historical context of the OBR institution. It is crucial to acknowledge that in Kasese, the available land for settlement and cultivation is relatively small in comparison to the continuously growing population. A significant portion of the land is already occupied by water bodies, the imposing presence of the Rwenzori Mountains, national parks, game reserves, mining areas, and various other areas designated for government use, such as Uganda Railways, Uganda Prisons, the Salt Factory, Nyakatonzi cooperatives, and more. These factors have led to considerable tensions between cattle keepers and cultivators who are competing for arable land in the lower regions of Sub Counties like Kitswamba, Nyakatonze, Nyakiyumbu, and Hima Town Council, particularly along the boundaries of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is imperative for the central government to take a proactive role in addressing this critical area of concern and provide a lasting solution that accommodates the interests of both groups, thereby promoting peaceful coexistence.
The negative perceptions and attitudes surrounding the land issue have, unfortunately, been the primary reasons for Kasese missing out on opportunities, such as the subdivision of the district into smaller administrative units or districts, which could have brought substantial benefits to the local population. he negative perceptions and attitudes surrounding the land issue have, unfortunately, been the primary reasons for Kasese missing out on opportunities, such as the subdivision of the district into smaller administrative units or districts, which could have brought substantial benefits to the local population.
To effectively manage the geo-cultural and political space and foster reconciliation between Rwenzururu and the current government, it is essential to implement a practical intervention strategy that addresses issues related to competition for geo-cultural and geo-political influence among the various ethnicities in Kasese and the broader Rwenzori region.
While the Bakonzo hold a dominant and comparatively enlightened position in Kasese, this should not serve as a justification for suppressing other ethnic groups politically and culturally. Instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity to break free from the historical mindset of colonial subjugation. Cultural institutions do not have predefined boundaries; they revolve around how multiple cultural entities can coexist harmoniously in the same geographic area. Therefore, I urge His Majesty, the King of the OBR, Cabinet Ministers, politicians, and academics, both within and outside the institution, to reconsider their approach and promote interethnic harmony and peaceful coexistence. Similar to other cultural institutions and ethnic groups in Uganda operating within a legal framework, the OBR should initiate a comprehensive review of its legal framework. This review aims to align the institution’s policies with the country’s laws and ensure that they are generally acceptable to the governing bodies within the institution and the wider population. This process also involves engaging with individuals and groups who may have once opposed the institution’s recognition.
The goal is to conduct this review in a spirit of transparency and openness, dispelling any misconceptions about secrecy that may have arisen in the past. This will help to build trust and foster a more inclusive and harmonious environment for all stakeholders involved. A well guided reconciliation process deeply rooted within the OBR, is of paramount importance at this juncture. This process can be facilitated by a group of highly respected individuals, an interfaith committee, or individuals both from within and outside the confines of the OBR who are universally trusted. In this regard, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of implementing the recommendations outlined in the 2005 Kajura Commission report. This report called upon the government to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, among other measures. If both parties, the OBR and the government, can embrace and collaborate on this process, it is my belief that both entities can find common ground and move forward together. Throughout this reconciliation process, Civil Society Organizations and Development Partners will adopt a non-confrontational approach to secure the necessary support from both State and non-State actors. Furthermore, these partners will invest in mobilizing and empowering communities with the goal of fostering a transparent, pro-people, legitimate, and sustainable effort to mend the relationship between the two institutions.
Lastly, these partners will establish and strengthen both vertical and horizontal collaborations with various stakeholders, including local and central governments, other cultural institutions, different groups, Faith-Based Organizations, and religious figures at both local and national levels. This collective effort aims to advocate not only for the interests of the two institutions but also for the welfare of the general population.
BY Francis Happy Muhindo
Peace Building Officer-KRC UGANDA