Rukungiri Town: A Town Weary of Political Battles
Rukungiri: a known strong hold for Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

Rukungiri Town: A Town Weary of Political Battles

It is almost a 12 hour journey by public means from Kampala.

By Enoch Mutabaazi
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First published: April 16, 2007

To many Ugandans, especially those that live in Kampala, the name Rukungiri brings back bitter memories of the chronic election battles between President Yoweri Museveni and his political nemesis, Col. (Rtd) Dr. Kiiza Besigye.

Dr. Besigye arriving in Rukungiri town -February 14, 2006
Dr. Besigye arriving in Rukungiri town -February 14, 2006.

Son of the area FDC President Kiiza Besigye
Son of the area, FDC President Kiiza Besigye.
Source: BBC News

Dr. Besigye and President Museveni have twice in the past (2001 and 2006) fought bruising election battles in the district with Rukungiri main town often the epicenter of these battles. The town is the birth place and home area of Dr. Besigye but is also a known strong hold for Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. It is also the home area of several political bigwigs in Uganda including Brig. Jim Muhwezi (former Health minister), Gen. Aronda Nyakairima (Chief of Defense Forces) and Brig. Henry Tumukunde (currently in detention) among others. Despite the political situation, Rukungiri town seems united, willing to progress and one of the most peaceful and laid back towns in western Uganda.

Like many other district towns in Uganda, Rukungiri town is the major business center of the district. Located about 350km to the west of Uganda's capital, Kampala, Rukungiri town provides the main linkage between the rest of the district and the rest of the world.

Rukungiri in Western Uganda
Rukungiri in Western Uganda.

Rukungiri town can be accessed by road or by air through a helicopter. However, with numerous high hills dotted all over the town's horizon plus the usual misty conditions especially during rainy the season, the poor visibility kills the temptation for one to fly in on a chopper (even if one is available). This therefore leaves you with one sure option of reaching this rather remote town - road transport. But be ware! It is almost a 12 hour journey by public means from Kampala. Only big coaches ply the route and you have to part with twenty thousand shillings for a one way ticket on a 'normal' day and double that amount in festive seasons like Christmas when the 'children of the soil' return for holidays.

The major means of transport within Rukungiri town are boda bodas, bicycles and pick-up trucks plying the difficult terrain if you are interested in going deeper into the district. Although Rukungiri district has a well developed road network, only the highway from Kampala is laid with asphalt and the difficult terrain makes transport not only slow but difficult. Rukungiri district is bordered by Kabale, Kisoro, Ntungamo, Kanungu and Bushenyi districts.

Road to Bwindi
Road to Bwindi.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is in the districts of Kabale, Kisoro and Rukungiri

Unique terrain
Rukungiri is a two street town surrounded by numerous shapely hills and valleys. However, most of the surrounding hills have lost their natural shapes due human activities, most notably agriculture. The town itself is located on a hilltop, giving you a vantage view of the hills yonder. In some places, the terraces on the hills where agricultural activities are ongoing decorate the hills from the foot to the peak, rendering the view across Rukungiri even more beautiful.

The weather
Lying in a semi-mountainous region, the town often wakes up to a misty start that usually hangs around until well past midday, keeping the sun's heat at bay. This, plus the usual cool breeze from the surrounding seasonal rivers in the hills keep the farmers in their farms until late. According to the Rukungiri district profile, the area has a favourable climate for agriculture.

Economic activities
The district is over-populated and is one of the poorest in the country. The district is shared by the Bakiga and the Bahororo, two of the major ethnic groups in the area.

Apart from tilling the land for agriculture, the town thrives on trading too. Many supplies come from Kampala, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Most of the shops are located on the town's two main streets, and mostly trade in the usual household items like clothes, home supplies, farm implements. A few offices are also found in the town.

Besides trading and cultivating, the residents of Rukungiri town engage in animal husbandry especially in the area of the town neighbouring Buyanja parish. "Now that we have a good highway to Kampala, we need good leadership to ensure the availability of public services like health centers and well maintained trunk roads for us to develop," says Topher Bashabe, 50 a resident of Buyanja. His is the kind of hope that Rukungiri needs to change from its current weary looks, for Rukungiri is a town that has recently seen huge political battles.

By Enoch Mutabaazi
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First published: April 16, 2007
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Enoch Mutabaazi is a media practitioner at Ultimate Media Consult with more than six years experience in the print and electronic media. Since he majored in Broadcast Journalism at his graduate studies Mutabaazi first worked as a reporter at Uganda Television (now Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV) before he discovered his multidimensional skills in writing and public relations at Ultimate Media Consult. He is currently the Production Executive at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and writes occasionally.