At least 52 bodies Rwenzururu royal guards who were killed during the November 2016 attack on Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace are yet to be claimed, almost a year after they were buried in a military barracks.
More than 100 people are believed to have died when the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) under the command of the then Second Division Commander, Major General Peter Elwelu, raided Rwenzururu kingdom palace in Kasese town.
The attack carried out on November 26 and 27 came after the Rwenzururu king refused to hand over the guards whom the army accused of engaging in clandestine activities.
Mumbere and his supporters, numbering about 150, were arrested and charged with several counts of murder and terrorism among others. Mumbere and several of his officials have since never set foot in Kasese, as they are restricted to stay within Kampala as part of their bail conditions.
After the attack, 52 unclaimed bodies were buried by the police and UPDF soldiers at Kihara army barracks, Nyamwabwa Division, Kasese municipality. District leaders resolved that the bodies be buried at the barracks because there wasn’t adequate space at the district headquarters located at Rukoki, five kilometers from Kasese town.
The bodies had been taken to several hospital mortuaries in the region. Police pathologists led by Dr Moses Byaruhanga, the director Police Medical Services, then took DNA samples from each of the bodies so that they can be identified later by their relatives for proper reburial.
When no relative came out to claim any of the bodies, each of the bodies was then buried in a separate grave so that once relatives show up the bodies can be exhumed.
According to police records, out of the 82 bodies that had been kept in mortuaries, only 30 were claimed by the relatives.
Lt. Col James Mwesige, the resident district commissioner Kasese, says that no relatives have approached his office claiming the bodies.
According to Mwesige, they received intelligence information that the unclaimed bodies could have been royal guards from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, who have no relatives in Kasese.
Mwesige adds that a week before the palace was attacked several people entered Kasese district to be recruited as royal guards.
Clarence Bwambale, the Rwenzururu kingdom spokesperson, says that it was not easy to claim the bodies because they were burnt beyond recognition during the raid at the palace.
Bwambale also says that there are plans to hold prayers at the burial site, but they may not be allowed since the barracks can’t easily be accessed.
Before the bodies were buried, the government rejected a proposal by Kasese district authorities that the bodies be buried in a mass grave.