To calm ethnic tensions in Rwenzori region, government has to address specific needs of ethnic minorities – Minority Rights Group
Minority Rights Group Africa (MRGA) condemns the weekend attacks in Ntoroko, Kasese and Bundibugyo districts in Rwenzori region in Western Uganda, which claimed the lives of at least 72 people, including numerous civilians, two soldiers and three police officers.
Now that the national spotlight is on Rwenzori region, and the Inspector General of Police and several senior intelligence agency officials have pitched camp to oversee coordination of security, MRGA urges the Ugandan government to use this opportunity to probe the historic causes of ethnic tensions in the region. It should initiate an inclusive consultation process, with a clear time-bound roadmap on how to end these tensions that sometimes turn bloody.
‘This is the right moment for the government to walk the talk,’ says Jolly Kemigabo, MRGA’s Office Manager, adding, ‘We all know there are historical injustices suffered by some ethnic groups like the Basongora, who lost land, but the government has failed to resolve their issues.’
Local media reported that, although the motive of the assailants remains unknown, the army suspects links to long standing tensions between the Bakonzo, one of the major ethnic groups in Rwenzori region, and other minority ethnic groups like the Bamba, Basongora and Banyabindi.
There were allegations that the attacks were organised by radical elements linked to the Rwenzururu cultural institution of the Bakonzo, which the kingdom has refuted. The assailants also reportedly attacked the palace of the just-installed King of the Bamba ethnic minority group, Maj John Kamya, killing one of his guards.
In May 2014, the government recognised and financed the installation of the King of the Bamba, which angered the Bakonzo who argued the Bamba are under the jurisdiction of the Rwenzururu Kingdom. On the eve of the installation, there were clashes between the Bamba and Bakonzo. Since then, tensions have been high, with little attention from local and central government.
‘The government, with the involvement of all stakeholders, has to push for peaceful co-existence, while addressing deep-seated inequality and discrimination leading to the political and social exclusion of minority ethnic groups,’ adds Kemigabo. ‘Such steps should include resettlement or compensation for evicted communities, and the economic empowerment of marginalized groups.’
Minorities and indigenous peoples in Uganda remain invisible and rank poorly on all health and economic development indicators compared to national averages.
Notes to editors
- Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide
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