Friday, 17 February 2017

Rwenzori conflict: Break the silence about the Bwesumbu beatings and arrests

As the people of Rwenzori are trying to heal from the the November 27, 2016 Rwenzururu palace attack, fear is griping the communities. The fear and tension emanate from search and cordon operations conducted by Uganda security personnel.

On Tuesday 14 February 2017, residents of Bwesumbu subcounty (Kasese district) were left in shock as security operatives stormed the villages in the area hunting for suspected members of the Rwenzururu royal guards who are said to have failed to heed the ultimatum to surrender to government of Uganda.

It's reported that in the process, there was massive beatings and arrests of people in Bwesumbu, Kabatunda and surrounding areas by security operatives who were allegedly searching for guns lost during the November 26, 2016 attack on a police post in this area.

According to eye witnesses, a team of army and police personnel mobbed up the areas in the mountainous Bwesumbu sucounty, Kasese district, beating up whoever they suspected and arrested a good number of locals.

The security operatives were reportedly being guided by a  resident only identified as "Kibido". The Bwesumbu LC3 chairman, Samson Bagenda, said he has already talked to the area UPDF commander to work with local leaders to "solve" the challenge.

"These operations usually happen when I'm away; I wonder why," says Bagenda who is on a study leave.

This indiscriminate operation which involves cordon and search can be likened to a fishing method known as "kayora" which means no discrimination against mature and immature fish.

While security operatives should do their constitutionally enshrined mandate of protecting the country, they should be mindful of the rights of those they seek to arrest and interrogate.

This kayora sort of operation is creating fear in the population. This may further increase the feeling among the mountain people that they are being persecuted.

Among the innocent people caught up this operation beatings was a university student who was on a holiday break. Another victim was woman only identified as Sylvia who was also reported to have been badly beaten.

This method of arresting where the suspects are tortured in presence of their loved ones is dehumanizing and demeaning to say the very least. Even in absence of their loved ones, no one should be beaten or tortured with the aim of extracting information from them. This behaviour is creating fear in the community.

Two, the security operatives should be aware of local and petty rivalries within communities where some elements will always want to take advantage of the fragile situation to frame innocent people just to settle scores.
This is not to say wrong elements in society should be left to roam around and cause havoc.

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