5 years after Kasese killings: 132 royal guards return to broken homes

Mamos Media

Police load caskets onto a truck following the raid on the palace of Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere (inset) in 2016. PHOTO/ FILE

By  Jerome Kule Bitswande

  • Fifth anniversary. In January this year, 132 royal guards, 17 of them women, were granted bail by Jinja High Court Justice Jeanne Rwakakoko.
  • Jerome Kule Bitswande finds out how the four years of imprisonment have impacted their families. P.12-13

On November 27, 2016, a joint force of the police and the military raided the palace of the Rwenzururu King, Charles Wesley Mumbere, on Kibanzanga Road in Kasese Town.  

The offensive led to the death of more than 100 people, most of them Rwenzururu Kingdom loyalists, and the arrest of more than 200 others, including the king.

However, in January this year, 132 royal guards, 17 of them women, were granted bail by Jinja High Court Justice Jeanne Rwakakoko. We find out how the four years of imprisonment have impacted families.

The beginning
Majid Kule vividly recalls the joy he experienced five years ago when news was broken to him that his girlfriend had delivered a bouncing baby boy. Kule, who was 23 years then, says it was the most exciting news he had heard in his life.

“I had been restless all through. I didn’t know what would come out of the labour suit, but the nurse came out smiling and told me, ‘It is a baby boy.’ It was exhilarating!” Kule told this writer during an interview in Kasese Town recently.

It was October 2016, and having sired a child with his girlfriend, Kule says he had started collecting dowry to officially marry the young girl, who he says was about two years younger than him.
Kule mirrored a small family where the couple would produce about four children so as to enable him take care of them and give them a decent education.

“Every time I came from work, I would hold the baby as its mother went about other errands. It was a very fulfilling experience and I have never felt any better than that,” he recalls.

Kule used to work with Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu. He was a driver for the royal family and was officially assigned to Rwenzururu Queen Nyabaghole Agnes Ithungu Asimawe.

To the 28-year-old, this was killing two birds with one stone. He says while he always aspired to be a driver, he also always wanted to work for the kingdom.

“Many of my uncles were so close to the kingdom, I always admired them. At the same time, I wanted to be a driver; so when an opportunity came through for me to drive the queen. I couldn’t give it a second thought.” Kule says.

But little did he know that his much loved job could bring an end to his young family. He recalls on that on November 25, 2016, just about a month after his child was born, he was called to the palace to be on standby to drive the king just in case he was meant to travel. 

This, he says, happened after the king’s official driver had taken the queen and her children to Kampala in one of the king’s cars. Apparently, the car officially assigned to Kule to drive the queen had broken down and was undergoing repair in one of the garages. 

Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere (centre) is led away by Prisons officers following his arrest in 2016. PHOTO/FILE

This was how Kule found himself trapped in the violence that rocked Buhikira Royal Palace on November 27, 2016. When the king was arrested, Kule was arrested too and subsequently detained at Kirinya Government Prison in Jinja for four years.

“Every single day that I spent in prison, I thought about my child and the mother. I wondered how they were coping since it is me who used to, not only provide for them, but also pay rent,” he adds.

Granted bail
The young man was in January this year granted bail. He was excited on the feeling that he would get reunited with his child. But that was only a dream he is yet to live.

According to Kule, when he returned to Kasese, the mother of his child had left where they used to stay. She did not go to his home in the village, but is said to have got in a new relationship.

“Four years must have been long a time for her to wait, especially since I didn’t leave her with an alternative source of income. I am told she got a new man and I don’t know where they are,” he says.
Kule, who is currently being housed by his elder brother in Kisanga Cell, Nyamwamba Division, in Kasese Municipality, says much as he doesn’t know where his child and the mother are, he is afraid of looking for them.

He says when being released from prison, they were cautioned against making any trouble within the community lest they get re-arrested.

“Four years is a long period in jail, I wouldn’t want to go back. I am worried that if I tried looking for them (child and mother), the current spouse might think I want to reunite with the mother of my child and you never know what he could do. We are people who have to be cautious,” he explains.

This writer observed that Kule was engulfed in fear and unaware that he has a right to access his child, just like any other parent. 

Magnitude of broken families
But Kule is not alone in this position. Many royal guards who were granted bail and returned home found their spouses in other relationships, children taken with them or abandoned with their relatives.

A fire in Rwenzururu Kingdom palace during the raid by the police and military in 2016. PHOTO/FILE

Of the 85 royal guards who report to Kasese Chief Magistrates’ Court for bail, 21 found their wives remarried while four of the female royal guards found their husbands with new women in their houses.

“When I returned from prison, I found a new woman in my house, sleeping in my room. What could I do at that point other than giving them peace and going back to my parents’ home?” said a female royal guard who preferred anonymity. “Even some of our children have been turned against us, they were not willing to embrace us.”

For those whose children have been taken away, they are afraid not to make claims for custody as they believe that there is someone always watching them and they do not want to be party to any disagreement or misunderstanding within the community.

Impact on children
Sam Kalamiah, the head of programmes at Creations Forum Afrika-CAF, a governance and human rights organisation in the Rwenzori region, says this state of affairs is disastrous, especially to children born in the affected families.

According to Kalamiah, the royal guards’ broken families add to the already huge number of broken families within the communities; thus posing a threat to the proper upbringing of children.

Kalamiah further argues that the increased number of broken marriages is majorly to blame for the increased child abuse in the region. Kasese has been grappling with increasing numbers of child abuse and violence against the girl-child.

Statistics at the Kasese District Social Welfare and Probation office indicate that last year, the district registered 25,439 cases of violence against women and the girl-child.

Can royal guards reunite with their spouses?
Kalamiah emphasises the need to support the royal guards to settle down into new lives, lest their children grew up in broken families. He says where possible, they should to reunite with their spouses, or get new partners where reunion is not possible.

But some royal guards think marrying new partners is a far dream. Kule, for example, says he would love to get another partner and form a new family, but he is limited by his current financial status.

The former driver of the queen says he has since lost his driving permit and doesn’t have any other job. He now dreams of getting a Good Samaritan to either facilitate the processing of a new driving permit, or train him in mechanics.

Another royal guard who preferred not to be named says: “I am an old man, after four years under incarceration, the first thing you want to do is get a family. But how do I do it under the current state? No money, no land, no job and no nothing! I can’t afford dowry.”

He intimates that his piece of land was sold off as his family made attempts to secure his freedom.

How to solve the problem
It is against this background that Kalamia calls on development partners and government to settle the royal guards and equip them with some skills to enable them earn a living.

Edwin Bayanda Mumbere, the chairperson of the bailed royal guards, says 33 of them are willing to join tertiary facilities to acquire new skills.

“We still have young people here. Some of them want to be mechanics, others mansionists etc. If we could skill them, they would not only earn a living, but also render a service to communities where they come from,” Mumbere says.

He also adds that a small package to help them initiate enterprises such as poultry, piggery and apiary for those who can’t further their studies would go a long way in helping them earn homestead incomes. 

Joseph Kule Muranga, the Rwenzururu Kingdom prime minister, agrees with Kalamia on the need to help the bailed royal guards. 
“Four years was a long time for most women to stay in homes without source of livelihood. We are aware that there are those that left and the husbands can’t bring them back because they don’t have an income,” Muranga says.

Security operatives guard Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace a day after the raid.

The premier also calls upon development partners to offer psycho-social support to the royal guards.
Kasese District chairperson Eliphaz Bukombi Muhindi, however, says he is not aware of the breakdown of the families of the royal guards, although he acknowledges the fact that Kasese is grappling with a high rate of domestic violence.

Muhindi says the Covid-19-induced lockdowns destroyed livelihoods for so many families, thus there is need to help not only the royal guards but also other vulnerable families to restart their lives.

Indeed, Kule believes that with a sustainable source of income, and once he has been absolved of any charges he is facing in court today, he will make an endeavour to look for his child and support his growth, but also looks forward to getting a new partner.

List of royal guards out on bail

Monday Stanley
Kabugho Jane
Kighoma Keirumba
Bwambale Joshia
Muhindo Moses
Bwambale Issa
Kule Friday
Mukuhi  Hezekiah
Mukuha Hezeron
Kule Fenehasi
Baluku Tasi
Muhindo Mary
Kalegha Julius
Bwambale Mbaraga
Kule Munabu
Muhindo Johnson
Mumbere Johnson
Kabororo Keiza
Kibinduka Ismail
Masereka William
Mulongo Timothy
Muhumuza Jusi
Bangahema Nicodem
Ntomera Samuel
Musoke Friday
Kule Jockus
Baluku Zephanas
Muhindo Ismail
Bihanda Sanyu
Maate Yusuf
Muhindo Basighanirya
Malebo Zakeli
Kabugho Adrine
Mulengiro Thembo
Kule Majid
Kambale Siraje
Kabugho Jenipher
Mathumu Kule Gidion
Agaba Isaac
Kahuju Eric
Aliganyira Jackson
Thembo Amoni
Bwambale Wilbert
Masika Jolly
Kule Wilfred
Mbusa Nehemia
Masereka Justus
Bwambale Faguson
Byabu Meresi
Baisirirya Isaac
Mumbere Onesmas
Muhindo Johnson
Maate Joseph
Bengahania  Hamada
Thembo Edison
Masereka Milton
Sekanabo Nehemiah
Matirimwenda T. Ezron
Kabugho Charles Katoko
Muthi Reuben
Wasesera Bonny
Wilson K. Muhindo
Drum Tom Sinamakosa
Kule Wisley
Mumbere Jimmy
Muthima Nasson
Bihamba Luka
Kule Joseph
Bihura Ivan
Muhindo Julius
Maridisi Saulo
Bwambale Edward
Ithungu Peregia
Buhala Zakeri
Mbusa M. Remegia
Muthende B. Charles
Bwambale Nason
Bwambale Thahera
Baluku James
Masereka Arastin
Bisathu Grace
Masika Justine
Kabugho Alice
Bwambale Joakim
Bwambale Samson
Bwambale B. Karasinin
Bwambale J. Andrew
Masereka Kanjela
Mumbere Edwin
Muhindo Kisunzu
Asiimwe Mbambu
Ramula Peace
Nzenda Alice
Muhindo Charles
Bulhandi B Samuel
Masereka H. Bathumani
Bwambale Edison
Kiteme Joseph
Muhindo M. Joackim
Matoka Zaveri
Marayi Eagle
Bakedia Christopher
Mbusa Nichodemus
Masereka Manimba
Kule Moses
Kibungulha M Yosia
Masereka Edson
Bwambale Eric
Bughuli Ivan
Muhindo Alfred
Masika Gertrude
Kinyamusithu Denize
Ithungu Annet
Bwamblae Mudesto
Muhindo Kenneth
Bwambale B. Yokas
Kikaya Joshua
Baligasaki Josef
Kalemira Zaria Eagle
Kibikyabo Marcoplo
Mutonya Dan
Baluku Jimmy
Bwambale Benson

Source Daily Monitor.

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