US, EU push Museveni on Kasese killings

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A Ugandan soldier guards the remains of the destroyed palace of Charles Wesley Mumbere, king of the Rwenzururu

The U.S. Embassy Kampala has noted that today November 27 marks two years since Ugandan security services raided the palace of the Rwenzururu king in Kasese killing scores of civilians.

The families of those killed and injured are still waiting for a full and transparent investigation, the embassy said.

It further noted that those arrested are still waiting for fair and expeditious trials.

“All Ugandans are waiting for accountability and justice. How much longer will they wait?”

The European Union also said two years after the violence in Kasese, the EU and Member States continue to call for the outcome of investigations to be made public and acted upon.

Victoria University

“As a partner to Uganda, we believe that full transparency and accountability are crucial for offering justice for victims on all sides.”

As Rwenzururu Kingdom marks the second anniversary of the military raid on King Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace, the cultural institution has urged the government to settle the families of more than 100 people killed in the attacks.

Soldiers under the command of then-Brigadier Peter Elwelu forced their way into the kingdom’s administration offices on Alexander street in Kasese on November 26 and shot dead eight members of the royal guards and Baluku, the 17-year old student and office cleaner.

More than 130 people said to be royal guards were arrested and now their relatives and families need at least Shs20 million each for resettlement.

No Justice?

Ugandan authorities have failed to investigate the police and military responsible for killing more than 100 people in western Uganda in 2016, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a video featuring interviews with victims’ families.

Those killed on November 26 and 27, 2016 in Kasese, home of the Rwenzururu kingdom, included at least 15 children.

“Ugandan officials won’t even ask why overwhelming lethal force was used that day and why children died, which shows a terrifying disdain for human life,” said Maria Burnett, East Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Security forces shoot, kill, arrest, detain and torture civilians, charge them with serious crimes, such as treason, and yet the government only investigates the civilians, while giving the security forces a free pass to abuse again.”

The killings followed long-standing tensions, unresolved grievances, and sporadic violence between the government and the Rwenzururu kingdom, comprised of ethnic Bakonzo people, in Kasese and Bundibugyo districts in Uganda’s Rwenzori region.

Human Rights Watch had pressed the government for years, well before the November 2016 massacre, for an independent investigation into the killings of police and government soldiers and into abusive law enforcement operations in which scores of civilians had been killed.

But instead of providing justice or responding meaningfully to local grievances, government forces carried out killings in Kasese town and in the kingdom’s palace, arguing those killed were all terrorists, despite evidence to the contrary.

In the aftermath of the November 2016 operation, the government charged hundreds of civilians, including six children, with treason, terrorism, and murder for the deaths of 15 police in six sub-counties outside the town of Kasese, among other crimes.

At least 167 of the civilians remain in pre-trial detention. Many spent part of the time in Nalufenya police post in Jinja, Eastern Uganda, where numerous former detainees have said they were tortured.

At initial hearings against the accused in 2016, journalists observed significant untreated wounds on several of the defendants.

The magistrate ordered an investigation into their treatment, but it remains pending.

Until April this year, Nalufenya was a police special force operations base but police leadership has since redesignated Nalufenya as a standard police post, in part due to the many allegations of abuse.

So far, no police have faced criminal charges for mistreatment of the detainees in Nalufenya.

In July 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 35 people in Kasese, including family members of those missing or killed in the November 2016 violence, as well as local government officials and found that many people still feared reprisals because of the ongoing security force presence in the district.

In January 2017, Human Rights Watch had interviewed more than 95 people in six sub-counties of Kasese district and reviewed video and photographs of the events.

In February, without commenting on the killings, President Yoweri Museveni donated 10 motorcycles and 200 million Uganda shillings (US$ 52,000) to several different community groups in Kasese district, including one for royal guards’ widows and orphans.

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