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THE KASESE UPRISING
How I see it
By Osborn Mushabe
The Hand You Can Trust
Basing on conversations with people from Kasese that we have studied with in School and concrete historical analysis,
The Kasese issue is more complicated than we think. It dates back to the time of the Colonialists & the Bakonjo have all along harboured intentions of uniting with their brothers in Congo to form their own country called Yiira Republic.
These Bakonjo tell us that they do believe that even if it takes years, they will achieve independence like the blacks in South Sudan who started fighting to break away from the Arabs in the main Sudan in 1875 & got independence in 2011 (after 136 years)
HOW THE KASESE DILEMMA STARTED.
It all started with tribal tensions between the Bakonjo & the Batooro in 1901 just months after the British colonialists had signed the Tooro Agreement in which present day Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo & Kyegegwa were to be under Tooro Kingdom, whose King, Prime Minister & other leaders were Batooro.
This meant that the Batooro became rulers over the Bakonjo, Banyabindi, Banyabutumbi, Basongora (Kasese), Bamba (Bundibugyo), Batuku (Ntoroko), Batagwenda (Kamwenge) & Bakiga (Kyegegwa)
These tribes opposed this move but were overpowered. In fact, the Bakiiga & Batagwenda in Kamwenge do not pay allegiance to the Omukama of Tooro despite being under Tooro kingdom.
2 Tribes the Bakonjo & Bamba decided to wage a war & secede/break away from Tooro.
BIRTH OF RWENZURURU
In 1961, Bakonjo and Bamba delegates led by Isaya Mukirane (dad to current king Omusinga Mumbere & Bughendera MP Christopher Kibanzanga) stormed out of Tooro Kingdom council in Fort Portal after the council refused to grant Kasese a district.
The Bakonzo & Bamba formed the Rwenzururu Movement to have Kasese, Bundibugyo & Ntoroko break away from Tooro and unite with their brothers in Congo and form their own country called Yiira Republic.
The fighting was intense. They took cover in Mt. Rwenzori slopes & across the boarder in Congo. They were later joined by ADF & it became a serious war.
When Idi Amin came to power in 1971, he granted Kasese a district of its own & peace returned briefly to Kasese.
However, the Tooro council withheld some portions of land that Amin wanted to be given to Kasese. This area is in Bunyangabu constituency (Kabarole) bordering Kasese & it is inhabited by mainly Bakonzo. The Tooro council also refused to lose ownership over Lake Katwe salt deposits to Kasese.
The Bakonjo resumed fighting to fight the Batooro in Kabarole & were overpowered by post Amin Governments of Binaisa & Paulo Muwanga.
One incident reignited fighting after the 1980 General elections. This incident was murder of Democratic Party Candidate Vito Muhindo, a Mukonzo who was very popular among the Bakonzo & Rwenzururu fighters. This was just 2 weeks to voting day in December 1980 & the army which was led by pro Obote loyalists like Brigadier Oyite Ojok (Chief of Staff), Tito Okello Lutwa (Army Commander) was blamed for trying to favour a UPC candidate by killing popular Muhindo.
The reasoning was that since Muhindo & the UPC candidate were both Bakonzo & the other candidate Dr. Chrispus Kiyonga (who was on Museveni's Uganda Patriotic Movement UPM ticket) was of the inferior Banyabindi tribe, very weak & was very young (had just graduated), the UPC candidate would get votes from his majority Bakonzo & win as MP.
The Bakonzo were so hurt & gave a protest vote against UPC. They dumped their fellow mukonzo & voted little known Dr. Chrispus Kiyonga. In fact, its only Kiyonga who won on UPM ticket in the whole country. Other UPM candidates like Yoweri Museveni (lost to DP's Sam Kutesa), Amama Mbabazi, Kahinda Otafiire were defeated.
After elections, the Rwenzururu Movt resurrected in high gear and the locals supported it overwhelmingly. Mukirane died & was replaced by his son Wesley Mumbere. After failing to defeat them, Obote gave Mumbere a scholarship to study abroad & made peace with the Bakonzo.
It was too late as many of Rwenzururu fighters joined NRA under Museveni who captured power in 1986.
With the rise of President Museveni, peace returned to Kasese.
However, the Basongora (who are cattle keepers & resemble & live like the Bahiima of Ankole) got chunks of land & this annoyed the Bakonzo as they blamed the NRM Govt of betraying them.
They regrouped with ADF & the war raged on for years.
When President Museveni restores Kingdoms in 1993, the Rwenzururu fighters (Bakonzo & Bamba) demanded for their own kingdom as a stepping stone to have own country.
President Museveni refused to grant them the kingdom. The Bakonzo blamed Kiyonga who was then a powerful Minister as they admonished him for fearing that his Banyabindi tribe would be marginalised.
In 2001, Kiiza Besigye contested for President & vowed to give the Bakonzo & Bamba their long awaited Rwenzururu kingdom. The Bakonzo voted Besigye.
In 2006, Besigye won in Kasese with a landslide. FDC also produced 4 of the 6 MPs ie Winnie Kiiza (Woman MP), her husband Yokasi Bihande (Bukonzo East), William Nzoghu (Busongora North) & son to the late Rwenzururu leader Mukirane & Current King Mumbere's brother Christopher Kibanzanga (Busongora South). NRM won 2 seats (Kasese Municipality & Bukonzo West through Kiyonga). The Bakonzo wanted the Rwenzururu kingdom & hoped Besigye would deliver it.
After the 2006 election, President Museveni tried to win back the Bakonzo & granted them the Rwenzururu kingdom in 2009. However, Besigye was given a standing ovation by Bakonzo at the function.
Never the less, in 2011, Besigye declined in Kasese. NRM's share increased from 2 MPs to 3 MPs ie James Mbahimba (Kasese Municipality), Dr. Chrispus Kiyonga (Bukonzo West) & Kafuda Boaz (Busongora South). Even Omusinga's brother Christopher Kibanzanga lost to NRM's Lt. Col Muhindo Dura Mawa for District Chairperson. Only 3 of the 30 District Councillors were FDC.
CRACKS EMERGE IN RWENZURURU
Like in South Sudan, cracks started to emerge soon after the Rwenzururu kingdom was established.
The Bamba who had all along supported the Bakonzo felt marginalised & agitated for their own kingdom. They were granted a kingdom by Govt & this resulted into the Bakonzo fighting against Govt and openly calling for formation of Yiira Republic.
The Basongora also demanded for their own kingdom after the success of the Bamba. The Govt neither recognised them nor rejected them. The Bakonzo massacred the Basongora & revoted against Govt. #2014.
Calls for Yiira Republic were in high gear. Politicians who opposed this risked being defeated. It is from this background that Prince Kibanzanga shifted from Kasese district & went to contest for MP Bughendera county in Bundibugyo. He also switched from FDC to NRM. Fortunately, Bughendera being predominantly Bakonzo, he won and is now State Minister for Agriculture.
On the other hand, Besigye won with a landslide in Kasese. All NRM candidates for MP lost miserably to FDC. Even Dr. Chrispus Kiyonga lost for the 1st time since 1980. FDC produced a District Chairperson, Majority councillors at District & sub county level & all the 6 MPs.
In August 2016, a group of NRM leaders petitioned President Museveni demanding for splitting of Kasese into 4 districts of Bwera, Katwe, Hima & Kasese so as to weaken Rwenzururu kingdom & demand for Yiira state.
The Bakonzo are against splitting of the district coz it will weaken them politically.
N.B: For starters, if Kasese is split into 4 districts,
*Katwe district will cover Busongora South constituency (Katwe town, Mweya, Lake Katwe, Kabatooro) & part of Bukonzo East Constituency like Kisinga Town Council).
This district will be largely dominated by the Basongora cattle keepers, who have been NRM supporters.
Woman MP & Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza who is from Kisinga Town Council will not win again coz she has fraternised with the Bakonzo so much & they are rivals with Basongora. Kiiza is of the minority Munyabindi but married to a mukonzo Yokasi Bihande (former MP Bukonzo East & LC V chair)
Katwe will thus oppose demands for Yiira Republic.
* Bwera district will cover Bukonzo West constituency. Areas at the boarder with Congo like Bwera, Mpondwe will be in Bwera district. Kiyonga has been area MP from 1980 until 2016.
N.B: It is important to note that in Kasese, there are two rival Bakonzo groups ie those who migrated to Kasese from Congo & those who came from Bundibugyo.
Those from Bundibugyo are in Hima & support Rwenzururu movt. That's why all Bakonzo clashes spring up from either Kasese or Hima but not Bwera.
Those who came from Congo settled near the boarder in Bwera & thus don't strongly support the Rwenzururu Movt. They will oppose Yiira Republic. The Banyabindi are also many in Bwera but not more than the Bakonzo.
*Kasese District will comprise of Kasese Municipality & some part of Bukonzo East.
Its a mixture or conglomeration of tribes, business people, immigrants. The Bakonzo are the majority. These will cool down as the Yiira demands are opposed in Katwe & Bwera.
* Hima district will comprise of current Busongora North. Areas like Hima. It is predominantly Bakonzo (those who migrated from Bundibugyo). Hima has the strongest supporters for Rwenzururu Kingdom & Yiira Republic.
It will be the only district supporting this Radicalism.
HOW I SEE IT
* The Bakonzo are not about to give up on demands for secession.
The Govt should look for long term solutions
* The Rwenzururu leaders & FDC bosses will oppose the split of the district coz they stand to lose. Violence will break out.
The Government should cease ideas of splitting Kasese at the moment.
* Should Moise Katumbi, a Mukonzo in Eastern Congo become President of Congo like he has been galvanising, the Bakonzo in Kasese & Bundibugyo will fight to break away & join their brothers in Congo.
* If the Govt doesn't bring an end to the Kasese uprisings, we are likely to see similar uprisings in Acholi & West Nile demanding for Northern Uganda to secede & form Nile Republic.
* Violence cannot be solved by Violence but by diplomacy. Let the Govt look for a way of involving the leaders in Kasese.
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Poem by Kimani Wa Kivumbi
O Uganda! I miss you.
I miss you and your sweet bananas.
I miss your matooke and the beautiful nyabos.
I miss your beautiful capital and its dirty ghetto
That I called home, Kisenyi.
I miss you like a child misses sleep,
Like an oppressed people miss a revolution.
I have travelled far and wide
But still, still, I cannot compare anyone to you!
And reminisce all the fun I had in Kampala,
And though I would earn just half what I do here
There’s no place I’d rather be.
There’s no embrace I’d rather have, I’d rather feel,
Than that of Kampala, warm and tranquil.
The pearl of Africa
With the friendliest people God ever made.
I miss you and I’m coming home
I’m coming to stay
To a mother that’s not my mother.