Uganda: No Justice for Children, Civilians Killed in 2016 Massacre

Ugandan authorities have failed to investigate the police and military responsible for killing more than 100 people in western Uganda in 2016.

Two years after Ugandan government forces killed more than 100 people in Kasese, western Uganda, family members of those missing or killed still wait for justice.

On November 26, 2016, following years of tensions between government and the Bakonzo people of the Rwenzururu kingdom in western Uganda, government security forces attacked the office of the kingdom’s prime minister in Kasese town, killing at least eight. The government had said it was trying to break up an alleged armed movement in the region, and that guards in the service of the kingdom who routinely guard the office of the prime minister were part of such a movement.

Within hours, civilians in surrounding communities clashed with police, and at least 14 police and 32 civilians died.

Women whose loved ones were killed in November 2016 when Ugandan security forces attacked the palace of Charles Wesley Mumbere, king of the Rwenzururu,in Kasese, Western Uganda, continue to look for answers since the killings.

© 2017 Maria Burnett/Human Rights Watch

The following day, security forces stormed the palace of the king, Charles Mumbere, leading to more deaths. There is still no official death toll for the two days in 2016. Human Rights Watch researchers found at least 55 people were killed on the 26th and more than 100 on the 27th. Government officials have cited 103 deaths, including police, without specifying a time frame, while community members compiled a list of 115 adults and 15 children on November 27 alone.

On the 27th, police arrested Mumbere and over 180 civilians, including children. More than 160 remain in detention facing charges of treason, terrorism, and murder. The government argues that the people in the palace compound were members of an armed militia responsible for the attacks on the police posts the day before.

There has been no independent investigation into the killings, despite repeated calls by Human Rights Watch and others inside and outside Uganda. Government officials say they cannot investigate the killings until the civilians that were arrested have been tried.

A climate of fear still reigns in Kasese. Community residents recently told Human Rights Watch they fear reprisals from the army for asking questions about the killings and calling for justice and accountability. Some have been arrested and tortured by security forces after being accused of sheltering guards or being guards to Mumbere themselves.

Government officials buried at least 52 bodies in graves inside the military barracks in Kasese and say they have sent DNA samples for testing to allow families to identify relatives, but many in Kasese say they are not aware of this.

If the Ugandan government is to address the legacy of this massacre and provide answers families deserve, it should ensure an independent investigation, identify those responsible for the killings, and hold them to account.