By The Insight Post Uganda
In a surprising turn of events, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jane Frances Abodo, by withdrawing all charges against Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere and his followers, a group that had been facing a litany of serious accusations.
These charges, which encompassed a range of heinous crimes such as murder, terrorism, treason, and robbery, among others, were dropped in the International Crimes Division (ICD) Court under the careful watch of Lady Justice Alice Komuhangi Khaukha.
At the heart of this case lies a specific incident that has been a focal point of the prosecution’s arguments. On September 14th, 2016, two Police Constables, Saverio Ochema, and Simon Peter Apille, lost their lives in what was described as a double murder.
The group of 218 suspects, led by Charles Wesley Mumbere, was directly implicated in this tragic event. Furthermore, they were accused of attempting to take the lives of four other police officers: Detective Police Constables Polycarp Ojoko, Benon Byaki, Francisco Nsimaki, and Assistant Inspector of Police Denis Ahebwa.
But the list of charges didn’t end there. Mumbere and his followers were also held responsible for the murder of Police Constable Godfrey Kasimba on March 24th, 2016, an officer who had previously served in the now-defunct Field Force Unit.
According to the prosecution, Mumbere and his followers were accused of launching assaults on various police facilities and properties located in Bukara and Nyabutsi villages during the months of July and November in 2016.
However, during a recent court hearing to discuss the trial preparations, Principal State Attorney Lillian Omara revealed to the Court that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had decided to discontinue the case and withdraw the charges against the accused individuals, indicating a loss of interest on the part of the DPP.
During the court hearing, Lillian Omara presented a letter bearing the signature of Jane Frances Abodo, which served as confirmation of the withdrawal of charges against Charles Wesley Mumbere and the remaining 218 individuals.
However, it is worth noting that two individuals, Masereka Kamada and Thembo Kitsumbire, the former Prime Minister of Rwenzururu, will still face prosecution. Kamada had refused to apply for amnesty, leading to his exclusion from the dropped charges.
The decision to withdraw the charges came following the group’s amnesty granted by the Amnesty Commission. In an acknowledgment of their involvement in the crimes, the suspects admitted guilt, renounced their rebellious activities, and reconciled with the government. As a result of these developments, the charges against them were ultimately dropped.
In April, amidst the legal proceedings, King Mumbere took a proactive step towards peace by appointing a new committee. This 11-member committee, chaired by Dr. Nathaniel Mumbere Walemba and with Constantine Bwambale as the deputy chair, was entrusted with the responsibility of leading peace talks between the Rwenzururu kingdom and the government.
The committee’s primary objective was to foster an environment of peace, unity, and reconciliation in the Rwenzori region, which had experienced heightened tensions.
King Mumbere had earlier emphasized that the region, comprising diverse ethnic tribes, had been enjoying a relatively peaceful state. However, he acknowledged that the situation underwent a significant change during his period of confinement in Kampala.
The king lamented that the adverse circumstances had also impacted various projects within the kingdom, including the development of the Rwenzururu Heritage University.
With the appointment of the committee, King Mumbere aimed to reestablish stability and promote dialogue between the kingdom and the government.
The committee’s mandate extended beyond addressing immediate concerns to fostering long-term peace-building efforts, encouraging unity among different ethnic groups, and facilitating reconciliation processes in the Rwenzori region.
It was an important step towards healing the divisions and restoring the progress of the kingdom’s developmental projects, such as the Rwenzururu Heritage University, which held immense potential for the socio-economic advancement of the region.
By actively engaging in peace talks and establishing a committee dedicated to reconciliation, King Mumbere displayed his commitment to resolving conflicts and working towards a harmonious future for the Rwenzururu kingdom and its people.
The success of these peace-building efforts would not only impact the immediate situation but also have far-reaching effects on the overall stability and prosperity of the Rwenzori region as a whole.
In 2016 Incident
In 2016, Mumbere, more than 200 royal guards, and some kingdom officials were arrested after the army raided the Buhikira Royal Palace in Kasese, resulting in over 100 deaths and numerous injuries. Security officers had claimed that the palace served as a training ground for royal guards planning to destabilize the country. Prior to the attack, Mumbere had been urged to disband the guards, but he did not comply.
Mumbere and his co-accused were subsequently charged with treason, terrorism, murder, aggravated robbery, malicious damage, and attempted murder. These charges led to his transfer from the Jinja High Court to the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kololo in 2018. He was later granted bail but had restrictions on his movements within Kampala, Wakiso, and Mukono Districts.
In October 2022, the International Crimes Division (ICD) granted an application aimed at protecting 70 crucial witnesses for the prosecution’s case against Mumbere and his co-accused. Extensive preparations were made for the upcoming trial, including the collection of over 100 exhibits, which were shared with Mumbere’s legal team.
Amidst the legal proceedings, the government granted bail to certain suspects involved in the case, while others were denied release. The decision to deny bail was primarily motivated by concerns regarding potential interference with prosecution witnesses. The prosecution presented compelling evidence, alleging that the accused individuals, as well as their accomplices who were still at large, were directing threats towards these crucial witnesses.
This selective granting of bail reflects the government’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of the trial process and protecting the safety of those involved. By denying release to certain individuals, the authorities aimed to minimize any potential tampering or intimidation that could impede the course of justice.
The pretrial proceedings faced additional challenges due to a staffing gap at the International Crimes Division (ICD) court. The absence of Justice Eva Luswata, who had previously been presiding over the case, necessitated the search for a suitable replacement.
This unforeseen circumstance temporarily slowed down the progress of the trial preparations, requiring careful consideration to find a qualified and experienced judge to ensure the smooth continuation of the legal proceedings.