Rwenzururu Kingdom pleads for Mumbere’s freedom

Rwenzururu Kingdom pleads for Mumbere's freedom
Charles Wesley Mumbere at his house in Kasese on Oct. 18, 2009, hours before he was crowned king of the Bakonzo people in western Uganda.

Rwenzururu Kingdom subjects have appealed to the government to unconditionally release their cultural leader Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere and all the Kingdom loyalists currently in detention at Kirinya and Luzira Prisons.

A total of 203 people including Mumbere and his Prime Minister were arrested in November 2016 when security forces raided and torched Mumbere’s Buhikira Royal Palace in Kasese town. Although Mumbere, the Prime Minister and six juveniles were granted bail, the rest remain in detention facing a series of charges including malicious damage, arson, murder and treason.

Now the kingdom wants the government to release all the suspects as a move to restore peace and sanity in Bundibugyo and Kasese district. The call was contained in the kingdom’s coronation anniversary message delivered by the Kingdom Spokesperson Clarence Bwambale on Friday.

Before Mumbere’s arrest, the kingdom used to celebrate every 19 October not only as the day when Mumbere was crowned Omusinga but also as the day the Cultural Institution was officially recognized in 2009. But in Mumbere’s absence, Bwambale said there was no reason to celebrate.

The kingdom spokesperson instead used the occasion to ask the government to be sympathetic to the detained Rwenzururu kingdom suspects. Mumbere is barred from stepping foot in Kasese as his bail terms restrict his movements within Kampala, Wakiso and Jinja.

Bwambale says the near two years that they have spent in prison are enough to enable them to pick lessons from whatever mistakes they could have committed.

“Our children are making two years in jail. Become the parent you deserve to be and see the suffering that the Rwenzururu men and women are going through in Luzira and Kirinya prisons. Grant them justice. If it is learning, they have learnt lessons and if it is punishing, 24 months in prison is a sentence in itself,” he said.

Bwambale argued that sending suspects to their home would be a good gesture of commitment towards the dialogue process that the Rwenzururu Kingdom and the government have for more than a year been involved in. The kingdom mouthpiece also warned the government against assuming that the criminal justice system would bring a solution to the Rwenzori Question.

He argued that keeping the kingdom loyalists in jail instead exposes their families to a harder life, disabling their children from attaining a decent education which is itself creating the ground for the future cycle of violence.

“Yes, the government in keeping them in jail could feel it is solving the problem but also let us consider that the future of their families is at stake. If they remain illiterate, the situation could be worse in future,” he argues.

In a recent interview with this publication, the government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo declined to comment about the detained suspects arguing that it would tantamount to subjudice.