On the Frontline during the Kasese Clashes

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Emmanuel Kajubu

 

On Saturday 26th November, I travelled to Kasese district to cover a confrontation between the Rwenzururu Kingdom and Central Government forces led by the Uganda Police Force. I arrived at night and found the army and police manning road blocks starting from Rukoki, 10 kilometers to Kasese town. All vehicles entering the town were being thoroughly checked.

There was tension in the town. Being a weekend, Kasese is always busy, but on this day the town was deserted. What was visible was the heavy presence of several Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and police officers patrolling the streets.

On Sunday morning, I went to Kasese Police Station to get updates on the situation. Gaining entrance to the facility was tough. The compound of the station was full of soldiers and police officers. The soldiers were armed to the teeth holding all sorts of weapons. Under the tree, there was a meeting chaired by Brigadier Peter Elwelu, the UPDF 2nd Division Commander.

Some of the officers included two Special Force Commanders-SFC at the rank of Majors, Justine Muhindo and Asuman Mugenyi, the Director of Operations, Uganda Police Force.

I was told that the meeting was meant to convince Omusinga Charles Wesley King Mumbere to surrender the royal guards to the army.  The meeting lasted thirty minutes and Muhindo with three unidentified people proceeded to the King’s palace, 2 kilometers away from the town.

While at the police station I noticed something was coming up. Elwelu, Mugenyi and the SFC officers were pacing up and down speaking on walk talkies.

Moments later the deputy RDC returns and together with the security officers engaged in another meeting.  It was 11:30a.m. I decided to leave the police station and move around the town looking for a snack to eat.

As I was eating, i received a call from an army officer, who told me that something ‘big’ was going to happen.

I returned to the police station and at entrance I met two pickup trucks of UPDF commandoes and UPDF armored commandoes moving out. I inquired and I was told that they were heading to the palace.

I asked my soldier friend if it was possible to follow them. He replied in the affirmative but asked me to be careful.

I drove to the palace, where I found a crew of NTV journalists, among them my former workmate, Raymond Mujuni. I parked approximately 100 meters away but could view the palace from where I was. The road leading to the palace was cordoned off by the army.

As we were chatting, the vehicle of the deputy RDC passed us and headed to town. At 1:15pm, the first gunshot was fired. I ran and entered the vehicle. Suddenly I heard a loud explosion which shook the ground and vehicle.   While trembling, I immediately started recording the events at the palace through the car window.

I raised the windows of the car and made a call to my editor informing her about the events at the palace.

As the fighting was taking place the UPDF armored vehicle passed us and one of the soldiers seated on top pointed inside the vehicle signifying that the King was inside.  I immediately ignited the car and followed the army to establish where the King was being taken.

As I approached town, there were gunshots all over the town. The road leading to the town center was deserted and patrolled by only soldiers. The NTV vehicle which was ahead of me, was flagged down by three UPDF soldiers, but later directed to proceed.

When my vehicle approached the roadblock, I raised my arms. The two soldiers with their fingers on the trigger asked me for my identity card, which I showed them. However they weren’t convinced. They all spoke simultaneously in Kiswahili and I had no clue what they were saying.

Knowing that I didn’t understand Kiswahili, they asked me for my press jacket similar to the ones worn by the NTV crew.  While trembling and sweating, I pleaded that I was a journalist and they should let me go. This all happened as gunshots were being fired in different parts of the town and the fighting at the palace raging on.

By God’s luck, one of the SFC soldiers at the rank of Major, who was returning from the palace noticed me and ordered the soldiers to let me go.

Still trembling, I immediately drove off to the Police Station, because it was secure , where all the local and international journalists had sought protection. At the police station, it took me thirty minutes to calm my nerves.

Some of the spouses of the police officers saw me breathing severely, sweating and offered me some water. I later regained my senses and resumed my duties.

It was then that I was informed that the King had been detained at the police station.

On Sunday and Monday night, I remembered the gunshots and the explosions that were fired and pictured through my mind the people who were being killed.

However, despite the difficulties i encountered to get the story, it’s an achievement in my 13 year journalism career. I updated my editors about the attack and the stories were published.

It is because of this that I received several telephone calls from international media houses such as Deutsche Welle, (DW) and Radio France International (RFI), requesting me to report about the fighting.

 

In : URN Blog

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    The Uganda polish today now most famous in the world. This is the result of their hard work and their honesty. So i think they need to do so well to keep us in peace.

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