Petition

Mon. 5. Nov. 2016

Memorandum & Petition 

Communiqué regarding the Security Siuation in the Rwenzori Region 


INTODUCTION

This Memorandum and Petition constitutes an appeal to authorities and the media, with respect to security in the Rwenzori Region, following the attacks on civilians, police and army personnel, which claimed nearly 200 lives across the Rwenzori Region - in Uganda and Congo - on the weekend of 26 and 27 November, 2016. This Petition is meant for review and for consideration by the President of Uganda, and by the National Parliament of Uganda, as well as by the media and NGOs, and by such authorities as may be concerned with the plight of the in communities of the Rwenzori Region. 


The primary duty of Cultural Instutions is the conservation and promotion of the culture, history, and community rights of the communities which they serve, every cultural institution ought to be committed to peace, and all law-abiding people - regardless of ethnicity - should be welcome to access any of its services and to participate in its  administrative and policy-making structures. 


Every person has a duty to obey lawful orders of the police and army and other government authorities, without hesitation and without conditions, and to assist the public and authorities in the search for solutions to the security problems we all face as members of a complex, integrated and ever-changing society. The following suggestions are made with the desire to ensure that all cultural institutions are treated equally and respectfully, and that they are helped so that they can be more accountable to the public for the work they do on behalf of  government in promoting culture and community rights.


This Petition was drawn up on Mon. 5 dec 2016, during a consultative meeting - held at Raca Resort at Fort Portal in Kabarole District, Uganda - by representatives of the cultural institutions of the Rwenzori Region. The meeting was chaired by Owenguko Munu Bamwitirebye Fulgensio, the Esimundyingya of Bwamba Kingdom [Obudhingiya bwa Bwamba]. The final draft was compiled by the Omukama [King] Ndahura II Imara Kashagama of Busongora Kingdom [www.busongora-chwezi.org]. The list of the names, contacts and signatures of representatives of the cultural institutions involved in drafting the petition is attached in the appendix. We have also attached additional notes and reports pertaining to the history and concerns of the communties affected by long-standing Rwenzururu aggression, in the hope that they will assist in clarifying any questions raised by the information contained in this Memorandum and the Petition.


MEMORANDUM

According to media and government reports, nearly 200 people - including at least 16 uganda police personnel, 3 UPDF soldiers, 50 Rwandans in the Congo, and soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC - were killed in Kasese and in Ituri Province, on the weekend of November 26 and 27, 2016, as a direct result of the actions and the leadership of the Rwenzururu Cultural Instution, and the refusal or failure of the Rwenzururu leadership to disband their illegal ethnic militias. 


Despite repeated pleas and negotiations over the course of 50 years, the Rwenzururu Movement - and its latest incarnation, the Rwenzururu Cultural Institution - has subjected the people of the Rwenzori Region in Uganda and Congo, to a reign of genocidal terror, in addition to engaging in incendiary partisan politics, extortion, land-grabbing and other crimes that continue to generate insecurity and to cause alarm and concern among members of the general public in the Congo and Uganda. Most of the victims of Rwenzururu have been members of the communities of the Basongora, Bamba, Bakonzo, Banande, Batoro, Banyabinda, Batuku, Bambuti, Banyarwanda, and others. All are the targets and victims of Rwenzururu-sponsored discrimination, land-grabbing, ethnic-cleansing, and persistent violence and criminality. 


Rwenzururu - a paramilitary organisation whose leadership and membership consists exclusively of Bakonzo - has been allowed, since 2009, to claim status as a cultural institution and it has used this privileged status to train militias, and to occupy territory traditionally belonging to the ancient kingdom of Busongora - as well as territories in Bwamba, Toro, Butuku and in Ituri-Congo - which it uses as a base to terrorise the Rwenzori Region and a large part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the fact that the endangered communities of the Rwenzori Region and Eastern Congo have registered alarm in every forum - at the incitements, intimidation, denial of service, thefts, land-grabs, occupations, ethnic-cleansing, murders, and cultural-genocide committed against us by Rwenzururu since 1962 - the Rwenzururu attackers have repeatedly been granted amnesty, and their aggressions even rationalised by some of the members of the Uganda Parliament representing Kasese District. 


Many reasons have been given to try and justify or explain the militancy displayed by Rwenzururu Royal Guards, and by the Rwenzururu Veterans and other Rwenzururu-sponsored militias - including the claim that they are are fighting for creation of an independent state called Yiira Republic, or that they stressed on account of unemployment and that they are allegedly landless, or that they are being somehow provoked by security forces, or that they have been infiltrated by Congolese Mai-Mai or by Rwandan Interahamwe or other dissident forces. Regardless of the credibility of such information, it is important to keep in mind that since 1962 Rwenzururu has been engaged in activities which violate OAU/AU and UN resolutions proscribing actions which incite - or constitute - genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other related crimes and human rights violations.


The AU resolutions also prohibit activities in Africa that are aimed at redrawing state boundaries, creating new states, or changing government leadership using unconstitutional means. Moreover, Rwenzururu has a history of amassing weapons, maintaining militias, engaging in extortion of businesses, intimidation of courts and police and witnesses, and also repeatedly planning and deliberately engaging in theft, torture, killings and other atrocities, against civilians and security forces in the Rwenzori Region of Uganda and Congo. 


The claim that Bakonzo were marginalised in the past is true - and this fact has been exploited by Rwenzururu to justify its continuing repression of non-Bakonzo in the Rwenzori Region. However, all other communities in the Rwenzori Region were also marginalised by the very same forces and governments that oppressed the Bakonzo, and some communities in the region were actually subjected to worse conditions than Bakonzo. For instance, the mistreatment of Basongora over the past century, and the marginalisation of the Bambuti, have been extreme in comparison with the Bakonzo. Reports by the UN and other concerned international agencies continue to list Bambuti, Batwa, Vonoma, Basongora, and other indigenous groups - which are also being victimised by the Rwenzururu - as the being among the world’s most endangered cultural communities. Some are listed as facing extinction.


Today the Bakonzo have an exclusive monopoly on parliamentary representation in Busongora County and Bokonzo County - the two counties that constitute kasese District - whereas the Basongora, as well as the Banyabindi, Bakingwe, Bagabu and other communities - indigenous or immigrant - remain without any parliamentary representation. Basongora for instance, are not even represented in local district councils, in which Bakonzo are overwhelmingly represented. Yet, strangely, Bakonzo MPs - and even some media outlets - still propagate the view that Bakonzo are marginalized and that Basongora are somehow privileged, despite all economic and social indicators that show Basongora are disproportionately under-represented in every sector of the economy and public administration in Busongora County - including the courts, schools, hospitals, and security organs.  


The lack of awareness of the history of the Rwenzori Region continues to be the main source of the preferential treatment accorded the Rwenzururu at the expense of all of our communities. The cultural identities of the peoples of the region are under attack as Rwenzururu propaganda denies that our communities exist as distinct and discrete cultures  with rights under international law, and with our own languages and traditions. Unfortunately,  some media agencies in Uganda regularly consign us to being under the fictitious hegemony of Rwenzururu Kingdom, despite our repeated clarifications that we have never been - nor do we want to be - part of an entity known as Rwenzururu Kingdom.  Moreover, the constitution of Uganda forbids the involuntary or forcible dissolution or absorption of one community by any other community or kingdom. 


It is of great concern that whereas cultural institutions in Uganda were given authority in 1995 by the constitution to represent communities, and to function as corporations, the constitution did not specify any kind of training, accountability or reporting mechanism, specifically for the kingdoms. There are almost no rules, or even a codified list of expectations, by which our kingdoms are required to operate, even though their status as a formally constituted arm of government allows them licence, jurisdiction, influence, and special to access to public funds and community services. The lack of training, accountability, regulation or supervision, has left cultural institutions such as Rwenzururu, at the mercy of rogue elements, some of whom have use the constitutionally guaranteed privileges and authority to engage in crimes, or to advance subversive and incendiary political programs. 


PETITION

In view of all the concerns listed above: 


[i] We appeal to the governments of Uganda and Congo, and the African Union, to formally and unequivocally denounce, interdict, ban and prohibit “Rwenzururu” - which is a non-statutory paramilitary organisation that maintains or retains the services of militias with such names as “Royal Guards”, “Kilhumira Mutima”, “Esyomango sya Obusinga”, “Rwenzururu Veterans”, Mai-Mai, e.t.c., - from carrying on any activities whatsoever under pretext of being a cultural institution, kingdom, or independence movement seeking autonomy for the creation of a new state in Africa. 


[ii] We appeal to the government of Uganda to allow the Bakonzo community - who have also suffered greatly at the hands of the Rwenzururu - the option of establishing a proper cultural institution appropriately named “Bukonzo Kingdom” or “Bukonzo Cultural Institution” which shall correspond to the ethnic community listed as Bakonzo [#18-Art 116 - 1995 Uganda Constitution], and which shall be accorded all of the rights and entitlements due to all cultural /ethnic communities equally, and which shall be required to abide by all the laws and conventions that govern equally all other cultural institutions in Uganda.


[iii] We appeal to the Uganda Parliament to review Art. 246 and Act 6-2011 of the Uganda Constitution, in order to have clauses added to it requiring that all Cultural Institutions [kingdoms, chiefdoms, clan organisations, charity organisations, CBOs, co-operatives, and other kinds of community organisations] in Uganda be:


[a] audited annually by the state or by a responsible independent agency, in order to determine how they spend public resources availed them through government agencies, NGOs, as well as public or private donations. Whereas it is understandable that many kingdoms lack the most basic administrative structures and are unable to supply coherent records - even brief notes by cultural leaders, submitted annually to parliament, explaining how they are using their authority and resources for the benefit of the Ugandan public, should be a great improvement over the current situation where there is no accountability of any kind whatsoever;  


[b] availed compulsory training and reviews - by a university or institute designated by the government - for their cultural leaders and kingdom staffs, in matters relating to: Pan Africanism and African history; cultural protocol; project management; the rights of communities and persons; and the administration of cultural institutions. This training shall help to improve their organizational skills and cultural sensitivity, and also help them to better comply with commitments to the Uganda Constitution, human rights conventions, and other international norms regarding cultural institutions; 


[c] required to participate in an annual national convention to be known as the “National Assembly of Cultural & Traditional Communities of Uganda” [or simply “The Traditional Assembly”], where the representatives of kingdoms and cultural organisations can publicly exchange views - and collectively hear from cultural experts, mediators, media, security and government authorities - in order to compare notes, gain equal access to development projects, and formally address concerns of the public relating to activities and policies of cultural institutions. 


[d] required to sign on, and contribute, to a “Traditional Authorities Code of Ethical Conduct” which consists of guidance and advice on the protocol and conduct and policies expected of employees and leaders of cultural institutions. Many cultural leaders remain uninformed about administrative due-process and so are uncountable to their own institutions and communities, and are prone to pressure by criminal or subversive groups to work for purposes that are inconsistent with the needs of the community or the state. A draft Code of Conduct for Cultural Institutions has already been availed the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development for its endorsement or modification.


[e] availed a standard system of equitable funding and equal access to government agencies and resources. Currently, the methods by which the 27 existing cultural institutions were are gazetted or legitimised [recognised] by the state are unpredictable and irregular and unequal, and are also inconsistent with the guarantees of the Uganda Constitution in regard to the status of the 65 recognised cultural communities - and the 19 endangered cultural minorities recognised by the UN as deserving of special protections. 


CONCLUSION

The suggestions listed in this petition will help resolve the impression that Rwenzururu, and a few other cultural communities, are accorded special privileges, funds, security, projects - and even invitations to conferences and public functions - by the state and by NGOs, in ways that opportunistic, erratic, or even dangerous. Depsite repeated violations of local, state and international law, Rwenzururu Kingdom continued to receive better treatment by local and state authorities, at the expense of endangered communities that Rwenzururu has been vandalising, intimidating and victimising. 


It is possible that such preferential treatement has caused Rwenzururu leaders to develop a perverted attitude of entitlement, impunity and even arrogance towards other communities, as well as a dependency on the exploitation of  witchcraft, terror and violence, as a means of amassing concessions from the scared public, and from solicitous state authorities that always seek to resolve peacefully its every alleged grievance. However, the fact that some kingdoms in the Rwenzori Region are left without resources, while Rwenzururu is given plenty of resources even while lacking capacity to use their funds constructively, means that all cultural communities remain susceptible to exploitation and abuse by extremist militias, political parties, aid agencies, and even foreign governments. 


With this Memorandum and Petition, we hope to be of assistance in improving the security situation - as well as the ecomonic, cultural, and social development - of the Rwenzori Region. If implemented, these modifications to the law will help resolve many security concerns by making all kingdoms in Uganda accountable to their own communities and to authorities, and also by making the local and state authorities accountable and responsive to all communities equally. We hope that suggested modifications, to the laws and implementation of policies pertaining to kingdoms, consistute a constructive mechanism that will foster cooperation and respect - rather than competition and hostility - between cultural communities, and between kingdoms and the state. 


END

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