Whichever way you look at it, the recent violent attacks in the Rwenzori sub-region (districts of Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko) is worrying.
This is what two retired senior army officers told me early this week. Between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) operated in the Rwenzori sub-region. However, by mid-2000s, the ADF was practically defeated. Given the capacity of the Ugandan state today and how unappealing armed rebellion has become, the ADF hardly poses a serious security threat.
In the wake of 13 coordinated attacks, mostly on police and army facilities and personnel, the army and police (including Commander-in-Chief General Museveni himself) have repeatedly ruled out the possibility that the ADF carried out the attacks. In a long missive that appeared in the media on Wednesday, General Museveni explains the attacks as resulting from the transformation of what was essentially a political movement for equality into a monarchy under Omusinga (king) Charles Wesley Mumbere.
Media reports have highlighted quite a few disturbing facts. It was reported that the attackers, albeit armed with rudimentary and inferior weapons such as machetes and spears, were so daring, if reckless, to confront and disarm policemen and soldiers armed with sub-sachine guns (SMGs) and rapid propelled grenades (RPGs)!
We also understand that there could have been the involvement of the Mai-Mai militia group (from across the border in Congo) in training and directing the attacks. Even more disturbing is the claim that the police and security agencies were informed of possible flare-up, especially in the wake of enthroning a new king of the Bamba people in Bundibugyo. Apparently, some meetings took place and this information was passed on to either the police or the army, if not both.
Why then didn’t the police and the army act in time to forestall the attacks? Rather than take full responsibility, as commander in chief, the president harkened to a Biblical proverb, saying: “whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap.”
The president has squarely blamed the Omusinga Mumbere, who he accuses of imposing a cultural institution on other ethnic groups in the region such as the Bamba, Basongora and Banyabindi.
But even if there is marginalization of other ethnic groups in Rwenzori, or, as the president put it, “chauvinistic ideas,” the buck still stops with General Museveni. If, as the president argues, the Rwenzururu struggle that led to the creation of a kingdom-government was a political movement, not a monarchical project, why then did Museveni’s government allow for the creation of an institution that he claims was opposed by other ethnic groups?
And when a new king was installed in Bundibugyo recently, was there consensus among the locals?
The Rwenzori sub-region’s problem is neither unique nor does it come as a surprise. Competing claims to cultural thrones and agitations for recognition of new ones have become legion across Uganda. In Busoga, the stand-off over the legitimate Kyabazinga has dogged that region and created unnecessarily endless bickering. In Buganda, we may not have had the last installation of new cultural leaders, after the Ssabaruli, Ssabanyala, and the Kamuswaga, and certainly not the last protestations from the Buganda government in Mengo.
In Bugisu, a cultural leader was installed with the rather intriguing, if meaningless ,title of Umukuka (literally meaning the “grand-father”). Uganda’s former High Commissioner to Canada, also former Mbale district chairman, Wilson Wamimbi, is the Umukuka of Bagisu, a totally new creation.
It remains curiously unclear how Wamimbi qualified to be the reigning cultural leader of the Bagisu. But before long, another, a journeyman and utter impostor, in the name of Wash Joseph Kanyanya, claimed Bududa, one of the districts in Bugisu. Kanyanya was ‘enthroned’ by the Bududa district woman MP, Justine Khainza!
The clamour for cultural institutions, which in reality are governments but barred from politics, has paralleled the now-out-of-favour yearning for new district local governments. Initially, the masses saw granting of a district status as an avenue to getting a share of the national cake.
With time, however, many Ugandans woke up to the rude realization that, contrary to the official discourse of bringing services closer to the people, new districts had brought more corruption and inefficiency. Although the masses excitedly demanded for new districts, proliferation of unviable district units was the handiwork of local and national politicians, including the president himself.
There is more than a passing semblance between the creation of districts and the controversies over cultural institutions. President Museveni argues, and rightly so, that any community has the right under the Constitution to form a cultural institution.
What the president disingenuously glosses over is that the cultural institutions created under his watch and blessings have little to do with culture and more to do with politics and access to resources. You do not need a fully-fledged government in Mengo or Kasese to promote Ganda or BakonjoBamba culture. You need something like the Banyakore Cultural Foundation, a nonprofit, civic body.
The author is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, EvanstonChicago-USA.
Source : The Observer