FORT PORTAL – Kasese town nearly came to its knees on Thursday as thousands thronged roadsides – finally assembling at the Booma grounds to celebrate the return of Rwenzururu royal guards whom the Directorate of Public Prosecution – DPP, Jane Frances Abodo had two days earlier cleared the suspects of charges related to terrorism, treason and murder.
The guards were, alongside the Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere, arrested nearly seven years ago – during a Uganda security assault on the kingdom’s Buhikira Palace that left over 100 – including women and children dead.
The survivors of Kasese bloodbath – which Brig. Peter Elweru commanded – totalled to over 200 people – mainly youth – whom the state accused of fuelling instability in the sub region leading through various illegal activities under the guise the Bakonzo kingdom. The group was detained at various police stations in Jinja – 449Kms away from Kasese and later remanded at Kirinya Prisons.
However, in a turn of events the DPP on Wednesday unexpectedly announced before the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala how she had stopped the prosecution of the Omusinga and his subjects – bringing an end to the episode.
Subsequently, most of the suspects on the same file were freed – loaded into two different buses and transported to Kasese – arriving at around 9:00am on Thursday as relatives and other kingdom loyalists lined up to welcome them.
Boda boda riders accompanied the royal guards’ convey through town as cultural dancers lined up the road as the buses drove towards the RDC’s office.
Some relatives and friends could be seen shedding tears while others craved to hold hands as they spotted their relatives in the UPDF buses. It took close to one hour for the excited residents to be cleared to allow the buses to drive to Booma grounds where hundreds of others were waiting.
At the Booma – celebrations continued as others beat the minimal security present to hug their loved ones who had been led to the pavilion section.
At 10:00 am, the Kasese Resident District Commissioner – RDC Lt. Joe Walusimbi received the 62 guards and in turn – he handed them over to kingdom’s prime minister.
Elders after the other hailed President, Yoweri Museveni for the gesture of freeing their children – spreading the message of forgiveness.
Juma Masereaka from Kabatunda whose cousin is among the freed guards hailed the efforts of all leaders in trying to secure the freedom of their people.
The Busongora North MP Sowedi Kitanywa said it’s was time to embark on the redevelopment of the cultural institution and improve the lives of the masses in Rwenzori.
His counterpart, Florence Kabugho, the District Woman representative in parliament asked the local communities to be supportive of the group. She also appealed to the government to consider giving a special budget allocation to the freed persons so that they can start up income-generating activities.
The Kasese RDC Lt. Walusimbi asked the freed persons not to be misled into rebellious acts but rather utilise their time to tap into government programs. He also asked the local community not to be misled by self-seekers who are claiming to have been behind the negotiations to have the Mumbere and his royal guards freed.
On Tuesday, the DPP withdrew all charges against Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere and dozens of his subjects. The group, consisting of 218 suspects, was arrested in 2016 and charged with murder, terrorism, treason, malicious damage to property, attempted murder, and aggravated robbery, following a security raid on Buhikira Royal Palace.
On Tuesday, during a court hearing to discuss the progress of trial preparations, Principal State Attorney, Lillian Omara informed the Court, led by Lady Justice Alice Komuhangi Khaukha that the DPP had lost interest in the case and was withdrawing all the charges against the accused persons.
It’s believed that the turn of events resulted from numerous negotiations between different political actors and the first family in particular.