NRM Fights Cited in Kanungu Fire

A seemingly ordinary case of arson in Kanungu district has gained political significance, after four suspects arrested last week were linked to Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

Ally Rugomwa, the Kanungu NRM vice chairman, Drake Atukunda, the proprietor of Meeting Point restaurant, David Turyatemba, a transporter and Aziz Niwamanya, 24, a casual labourer, were arrested on Saturday, four days after a fire destroyed an amusement park in Kihiihi. Rugomwa and Atukunda are known political mobilisers of Mbabazi.

The two led the campaign in the district against the Kyankwanzi resolution that endorsed President Museveni as NRM’s sole flag bearer in the 2016 elections. On Monday, all four were granted bail by the Rukungiri Chief Magistrate’s court sitting in Kanungu. But Niwamanya was re-arrested five minutes later and driven to Kihiihi police station.

The four were represented by Severino Twinobusingye, a Kampala based lawyer who was mentored by Mbabazi. The burnt park is owned by businessman Benson Karabu, the secretary general of Kihiihi town traders association, who is said to have switched political allegiance recently from the Mbabazi camp to President Museveni’s side.

On July 2, when Museveni visited Kanungu to launch the reconstruction of the caved-in Mitano bridge, it was Karabu who handed the president a plaque with an inscription: “Our sole candidate for 2016.”

Although Mbabazi himself endorsed Museveni’s sole candidacy campaign, key members of the premier’s family have denounced it as anti-democratic. But Karabu, formerly seen as a Mbabazi loyalist, heaped praise on Museveni on July 2: “We appreciate your efforts to provide a conducive environment that has enabled us the business community to do our trade without being harassed and for that matter we support your sole presidential candidacy for 2016.”

Prior to that, Karabu was an outspoken critic of Museveni. At a public rally in March, this year, he accused the president of trying to politically frustrate their “son, Mbabazi.”

Our sources in Kanungu, who are familiar with the police investigations into the arson, said Karabu told police that his park was burnt down by people who were not happy with his new political leaning. The sources said Karabu claimed that his life was in danger. On Saturday, in an unprecedented move, Gen Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, flew to Kanungu and ordered the police to protect Karabu’s other properties. Karabu has also been given bodyguards.

“We have secured his properties because we got information that some bad elements wanted to cause mayhem again,” Rosemary Olive Wawire, the regional police commander for Kigezi, told journalists at Kihiihi police station on Saturday.

Kayihura’s quick response and the deployment of police’s elite flying squad, has raised more questions. Some district leaders, who declined to be named, harshly criticized Kayihura’s new-found interest in Kanungu and more so the fire incident. They pointed out that when the district suffered bigger catastrophes in the past, the police chief didn’t show up.

One of the leaders said that in March 2013, Angel Kobusheshe, an accountant with Uganda Wildlife Authority, was gunned down in his office in broad daylight and it took months to arrest the assailant. He also singled out the murder of three men in Kabingo trading centre on January 22, 2014 by unidentified gunmen who have never been arrested.

“When our people were gunned down here, Kayihura never surfaced but when a grass-thatched hut infested with rats went [up] in flames, he got the courtesy to fly a chopper to see for himself… ,” the leader said.

At a news conference at the weekend, Kayihura defended his impromptu visit saying that a fire in Kihiihi which shares a common border with the volatile DR Congo can’t be taken lightly because it can be the work of terrorists. Another security source in Kanungu told The Observer that the fact that no valuable property such as a fridge, or stock was burnt in the fire raises more suspicion.

The source said they would widen the investigation to focus on Karabu too.

“He had a lot of debts… ,” a source said.

The suspects are expected to appear in court again on August 21.

Source : The Observer

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