Security were by today evening reluctant to rule out a rebel hand in weekend attacks in western Uganda, which left a reported 90 people dead.
Officially, they have maintained that the clashes were motivated by royal ethnic differences especially between the Bakonzo and the BambaBabwisi that have persisted for years. These tensions are said to have escalated early this year, when government recognized and installed the Obudhingiya bwa Bwamba (Bwamba kingdom).
President Museveni, in a statement dated July 7, said the July 5 attacks, in Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko districts, revolve around the differences between the Obusinga and other groups in the Rwenzori sub-region that want autonomy.
“On account of those chauvinistic ideas being bandied around for so long, it seems some groups hatched this criminal scheme that has caused the death of so many people. Apart from killing 51 of the attackers, we have captured 65 others. We shall get to the truth and will punish those involved. In the meantime, the country should not get anxious about this scheme. It was defeated right on the first day of its execution even before the full potential of the UPDF has been mobilized. This scheme is doomed to total failure,” Museveni said.
But the picture from the Kasese command centre, run by Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura, was a little more cautious. Insider sources say that security officials are trying to piece together every strand of information to establish the real motive of the gruesome attacks. The Observer has learnt that Kayihura is working alongside Maj Gen David Muhoozi, the commander of the Land Forces.
The second division in Mbarara has also deployed heavily in the Rwenzori sub-region in case of more clashes. By today, an uneasy calm reigned in the sub- region. In Kasese municipality, many businesses remained closed, in part because the heavy security presence on the streets created anxiety and fear. So far, according to our source, preliminary investigations have raised more questions than answers, regarding the motive of the attackers.
There is, our source added, cause to believe that the motives could have been both political and cultural.
“The pattern of the attacks [and] their level of organisation and coordination points to a group that could have another agenda,” said our source, who is familiar with the command centre.
Indeed, some national and regional political leaders insist that there is more to the attacks than meets the eye. Norbert Mao, the Democratic Party president general, told a news conference today that the opposition would not accept suggestions not backed by facts.
“I don’t think when tribes are clashing, they can attack police stations. The fact that a bunch of armed people attacked Kasese town in broad daylight is a matter to investigate,” Mao said.
Winnie Kiiza, the Woman MP for Kasese, told The Observer on Monday that the attackers were not ordinary people.
“I don’t think they are tribal because if they were tribal clashes, how come they bypass houses of people they know and they attack police and army barracks? Was it hard for them to identify the people they stay with in the communities?” she said.
Joseph Matte, the MP for Bughendera in Bundibugyo district, also disputed the government version.
“I believe that these are probably people who took up arms against government because they hardly attacked any family but security installations.”
A senior opinion leader in Bundibugyo, who declined to be named said: “I was one of those that thought this was a tribal clash but considering that all their attacks target government installations and not homes of civilians, I think there is much more to this violence than merely a tribal conflict.”
The choice of target is among several factors calling the ‘tribal’ theory into question. In total, there have been 13 attacks since Saturday. They have attacked a weighbridge along Kasese-Mbabara highway, Karugutu police station in Ntoroko district. Kicho police station and Bundibugyo police station were attacked, with two policemen killed and two guns stolen.
Why would people with ethnic grievances attack police and army posts and why would they take guns?
According to press reports, eyewitness accounts and the army Spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, the attackers had military fatigues. The Rwenzori sub-region was the centre of the ADF insurgency in the late 1990s and early 2000s. On Sunday, when the attacks intensified, Ankunda said six soldiers were killed in one incident, where a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) was taken.
This begs two questions: How can tribal attackers armed with rudimentary weapons like machetes and spears grab an RPG from a professional army?
Secondly, of what use would an RPG be to a band of tribal attackers, if they did not have other ulterior motives?
There has also been the issue of coordination of the attacks. The attackers were able to strike, almost simultaneously, in three districts (Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko), something that points to meticulous planning. Our sources have told us that the attackers also had a chain of command. Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga said intelligence had not yet got clues to link the attacks to any rebel activity.
Enanga said the people who attacked security installations were veterans some of whom participated in the defeat of ADF. They thus had some military skills.
“The intelligence which we have is that they are arising out of the recognition of minority tribes. Some of the Bakonzo do not want this that is why they are fighting,” he said.
Enanga argued that the attackers targeted police and other security installations because they viewed them (police) as government agents out to offer protection to the minority groups. So far, no rebel group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Source : The Observer