State withdraws all charges against Rwenzururu king, 218 others

Charles Wesley Mumbere in the dock earlier

The director of public prosecutions (DPP) Jane Frances Abodo has withdrawn all charges against Rwenzururu king Charles Wesley Mumbere and his subjects. 

The charges which have been withdrawn before the international crimes division of the High court presided over by lady justice Alice Komuhangi Khaukha include murder, terrorism, treason, malicious damage to property, attempted murder, and aggravated robbery, among others.

The over 218 suspects had specifically been implicated in the September 14, 2016, double murder of two police constables; Saverio Ochema and Simon Peter Apille. They were accused of attempting to murder detective police constables Polycarp Ojoko, Benon Byaki, Francisco Nsimaki, and assistant inspector of police Denis Ahebwa. 

According to the state, Mumbere and his subjects also murdered a police constable Godfrey Kasimba on March 24, 2016, who was formally attached to the defunct field force unit. The prosecution also alleges that Mumbere and his subjects attacked several police establishments, and property at Bukara and Nyabutsi villages in July and November 2016.

Today Tuesday when the matter came up for mention about the progress on how the parties have undergone with preparing the trial, principal state attorney Lillian Omara informed court that the DPP had lost interest in the case and was withdrawing charges against the accused persons.

Omara tendered before the court, the letter withdrawing charges signed by Abodo. All charges have been withdrawn against all the suspects except Masereka Kamada and Thembo Kitsumbire the former Rwenzururu prime minister whom the prosecution says will go ahead to prosecute since he refused to apply for amnesty, unlike the bigger group.

The withdrawal of charges follows the amnesty that was granted to the group by the Amnesty Commission after the suspects admitted to having participated in the crimes and also denounced rebellious activities and reconciled with the government. 

In April, Mumbere appointed a new 11-member committee chaired by Dr Nathaniel Mumbere Walemba and deputized by Constantine Bwambale to spearhead the kingdom’s peace talks with the government.

The committee was also put in place to ensure peace unity and reconciliation in the Rwenzori region. The king had early this year told the media that the Rwenzori region had many ethnic tribes and was peaceful but since his stay in Kampala, the situation changed.

He indicated that many of the projects in the kingdom such as the Rwenzururu Heritage University have since been affected by his confinement in Kampala. Mumbere, together more than 200 royal guards, and some kingdom officials were arrested in 2016 after the army raided the Buhikira Royal palace in Kasese. The attack left more than 100 people dead and scores injured.

Prior to the palace attack, security officers alleged that the palace was a training ground for royal guards who planned to destabilize the country. Mumbere had earlier been told to disband the guards in vain. Mumbere and his co-accused persons were later charged with treason, terrorism, murder, aggravated robbery, malicious damage, and attempted murder.

In 2018, he was committed to the international crimes division of the High court in Kololo by the Jinja High court to face the charges. He was then granted bail and his movements were restricted within Kampala, Wakiso, and Mukono districts. In October 2022, the ICD allowed an application seeking to protect 70 witnesses the prosecutors intended to rely on to try Mumbere and his co-accused.

More than 100 exhibits had also been lined up in preparation for the trial and shared with Mumbere ‘s lawyers. The government had also released some of the suspects on bail and others had been denied bail on allegations that they would interfere with prosecution witnesses once released.

The prosecution argued that the witnesses are receiving threats that are directly coming from the accused persons and their accomplices who are still on the run. The pretrial had previously stalled due to a staffing gap at the ICD to replace justice Eva Luswata who was one of the judges at that court and was handling the case but has since been elevated to the Court of Appeal.

In June 2019, Mumbere lost his mother Christine Mukirania at Kilembe Mines hospital in Kasese district. Mumbere through his lawyers, Caleb Alaka, Evans Ochieng, Eron Kiiza, and Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi asked court to permit him to travel to Kasese to bury his mother and also to perform some rituals.

Although lady justice Eva Luswata granted Mumbere 14 days to go and mourn the mother, she stopped him from participating in activities such as meetings, rallies, and other unrelated business. However, he cancelled the trip after a disagreement emerged with his young brother, the Rwenzururu kingdom chief prince Christopher Kibazanga on where to bury their mother.

She was later buried at Kirindi village in Bundibugyo district, which was against Mumbere’s wish who wanted her buried at her in Kirembo Village, Kasese district.

Source: The Observer

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