24 Arrested Over Kibaale Tribal Conflict That Has Claimed 3
Goats killed in tribal clashes.

24 Arrested Over Kibaale Tribal Conflict That Has Claimed 3

More tribal conflict.

By Gerald Rulekere
more from author >>
First published: March 8, 2006

A tribal conflict in Uganda's mid-western district of Kibaale is continuing to put many local residents on tension and putting question marks on democracy.

Three people have so far been confirmed dead as a result of guerilla-like fighting between indigenous Banyoro and Bakiga who migrated to the area following the February 23 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

The Banyoro are accusing the Bakiga who have been consistently migrating to area of plotting to rule them (Banyoro) through tribal voting after two Bakiga candidates were voted to represent Buyaga and Bugangaizi counties of Kibaale district in the national Parliament. Some Banyoro have refused the candidates saying that they cannot be represented by Bakiga and have orchestrated fighting mostly with pangas and spears, attracting retaliation from the Bakiga. Many houses, crop plantations and other property have been burnt or destroyed.

Cow carcas from tribal clashes
Cow carcas from tribal clashes

One woman was hacked to death at around 2pm on Monday in Kikonda, Kiryanga Sub-country, Buyaga County in the tribal clash that first manifested itself in 2001.

Police and the army have been deployed in the area, but two more people were killed in Kakindo over the weekend. The Police identified the dead as David Ndyareeha, 16 and Barnabas Biryomumaisho, 14, both of Kasenyi village in Kakindo, Bugangaizi county. The Police also say three grass-thatched houses belonging to Bakiga immigrants at Kasenyi village were torched on the village while many people sustained injuries.

The Kibaale District Police Commander Peterson Okuja says that 24 people have so far been arrested in connection with the tribal violence and conflicts in Kibaale. The 24 people are believed to be part of a lager group which burnt down houses and injured several people during the election period. Okuja says the suspects will be charged with murder, arson and malicious damage of property.

Locals told Ultimate Media that the fighting is not from any organized group but from individuals from either side who feel an obligation to fight or defend their tribe.

The Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura visited the district last week and urged the two tribes to desist from fighting each other, but fighting was reported to be on the increase when he left.

Kibaale leaders at Local KKC Radio urging people not to fight
Kibaale leaders at Local KKC Radio urging people not to fight.

Uganda's Ambassador to Kenya, Brig. Matayo Kyaligonza who comes from neighboring Hoima district has asked the Banyoro and Bakiga in Kibaale to unite and end the inter-tribal conflict in Kibaale, one of three districts that make up Bunyoro-kingdom.

Kyaligonza was in Kibaale on Saturday to assess the situation after reports of Banyoro and Bakiga engaged in fights, cutting each other and burning or destroying each others houses. Brig. Kyaligonza warned the local politicians against inciting violence among the Banyoro and Bakiga as the conflict is said to be politically motivated.

The Banyoro-Mubende Committee officials, an 88-yer Banyoro freedom movement however told Kyaligonza that violence in Kibaale can only cease if the influx of the Bakiga is controlled and the land problems in Kibaale are solved.

Kibaale is made of the two former lost counties of Buyaga and Bugangaizi that the British colonialists had awarded to the kingdom of Buganda from the rival kingdom of Bunyoro.

Although the Banyoro won back the counties in a 1964 referendum, most of the land in area is owned by absentee Baganda landlords and has been in contention for close to a century. In 1998, the Uganda government put in place a land fund to buy land from Baganda landlords and give it back to the Banyoro, in a move to correct historical injustices as provided in article 33 of the country's 1995 Constitution.

Although many Bakiga (who come from the overpopulated western district of Kabale) came under the two resettlement schemes (Rutete in 1960s and Kisita in 1993), many more have been coming to the area and settling in mainly forested areas. The Banyoro claim that because of the historical land problem, the Bakiga are taking advantage to move into the district in large numbers to the extent of outnumbering the Banyoro.

In 2001, the Banyoro rejected Fred Rulemera, a Mukiga who had been elected to be the Kibaale district Chairman citing similar concerns. It was only after President Yoweri Museveni convinced (some say coerced) Rulemera to step down that tribal tensions eased. Kibaale is now headed by a compromise LC5 chairman, George Nyamyaka.

Ford Mirima, the Secretary of Mubende Banyoro Committee, says they want the two elected Bakiga representatives to resign in "the interest of peace" as in the 2001 elections since they (Banyoro) cannot accept to be led by Bakiga who he accuses of being arrogant.

Both Mable Bakaine (elected to represent Bugangaizi) and Barnabas Tinkasiimire (elected to represent Buyaga) have vowed not to resign under any amount of pressure as this would tantamount to surrendering their right to stand and be elected. The national constitution gives any Ugandan a right to settle and stand in any area in Uganda. But with tribal sentiments forming much of people's decisions in the district, there is doubt that the answers to the current situation in Kibaale lie in constitutional provisions. After all, the Banyoro have also asked how constitutional and democratic it is for the Bakiga to engage in a tribal vote where Bakiga always vote for a Mukiga candidate. A prominent Mukiga in Kagadi, Kibaale's main town is accused of having said he would rather vote for a dog from a family of Bakiga that vote for a Munyoro.

"We are loosing our right to elect and be elected in our own homeland. The Bakiga are using their numbers to vote each other into public offices. But that is not fair to us as Banyoro who welcomed them in Kibaale and we cannot accept them to dictate matters with such arrogance," says Fred Mugisa, 26, who comes from Kiryanga in Kibaale.

A commission of inquiry instituted by the government on the tribal clashes after the 2001 elections recommended that some Bakiga be resettled from the area and government should solve the historical land problem. Another commission headed by Makerere University Prof. of Linguistics, Ruth Mukama, is currently hearing views on the same matter. But at the current rate of anger between the two tribes, it does not take a lot of guessing at what a high cost a delay in a solution to the clashes might be, as democracy, human rights and indigenous rights make their own battle to survive infringement.

By Gerald Rulekere
more from author >>
First published: March 8, 2006
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.