Kasese Massacre Was Just An Episode

The writer, Morris Komakech

When Ugandans woke up on the morning of November 26, 2016, all they heard, read and saw in the news were dead bodies, a burnt palace, and video clips of the Rwenzururu King, His Highness, Charles Mumbere arrested and dragged into custody like an ordinary chicken thief.

Subsequent imagery coming out of the fiasco – of naked women lined up alive and then dead; bodies of men dressed up in two layers, an undergarment of civilian cloth and outer Police uniform. Reports speculated on the tally of the dead, some said that nearly 100 people were slaughtered and the Palace, bombed.

Surprisingly, this time the attack on Kasese sent shock waves across the country. The shock was minimal – awe, irritation, discomfort…. No one seemed outraged, repulsed, or disenchanted enough to condemn it. The gory pictures did not conjure up repugnant threshold for a street demonstration, or at least a strong reaction from cultural, religious, and civil society organisations.

Most interesting was the defence and justification mounted by Brig. Elwelu, the UPDF commander who demolished the Bakonzho Palace and supervised the killings. How does this guy sleep at night? He actually shifted the blame of his use of excessive force onto Kasese politicians, many of whom defeated the regime’s protégés just in February.

What happened in Kasese did not surprise me having lived long enough to realize how cruel, murderous, and atrocious this NRM dictatorship is. What was shocking is that such could also happen in Western Uganda.

When Northern Uganda fried in the pan, the people in these regions thought it war was the problem of Northerners. The dominating and justifying propaganda was that Northerners were killing themselves.

The NRA/UPDF was in Northern Uganda to pacify the place as a mediator. Kony was the antagonist, a disorganised mystical religious fanatic with obsession for the trigger. The narrative presented LRA as a rag-tag war load, running a small and inconsequential militia groups (bandits) that kills only Acholi people and not even UPDF. Some even stated that Kony was getting assistance from Sudan to kill Acholi.

As such, the LRA debacle was never an assault on the institution of Uganda. The regime reduced and devalued the Northern Uganda conflict as an Acholi killing Acholis, and normalised it as such. That war, fought by a rag-tag army of religious fanatics or bandits, lasted a good damn twenty years!

That war, claimed millions of lives, deportation of nearly 2 million Acholi people into squalid internment where mortality rate from preventable diseases, mental illness and HIV/AIDS killed nearly 1000 people a day! That silent annihilation of the people soiled the conscience of this nation and justified impunity.

Because of their success in annihilating Northern Uganda, this regime can compartmentalise a region, totally annihilate it, and another region would not flinch. This is what Uganda has come to. The death of a citizen is the fault of the deceased and does not concern the rest of us.

The mother of all strangeness is that no treason charge has been preferred in Kasese situation. Possession of weapons, recruitment, training, and using a militia to attack a government institution should tantamount to treason. Surprisingly, Charles Mumbere was charged with murder, purportedly occurred in March of 2016. If this is not awkward, then it is bizarre! Had they found even a metal detector in Dr Kizza Besigye’s possession, they could have hanged KB for treason by now!

The truth about Kasese may never emerge, but what we know is that Kasese was only an episode for today, a test case. Having lived through the Northern Uganda genocide, I can attest that this regime is capable of doing worse than we saw in Kasese.