Uganda: Local rights organisation deeply concerned about tension between Batwa and Bakiga and calls for immediate investigations of incidents of arson
United Organisation for Batwa Development (Uobdu) condemns the recent attack on a Batwa community in Rubuguri in which 13 homes were razed after a night bar brawl between a Mutwa, only identified as Akakwasa, and Aggrey Masente and his wife from the majority Bakiga ethnic group on 7 June 2014.
Masente with the assistance of a group of errant youth, adults and clan leaders (kika) – organised a revenge attack on a Batwa village at mid-day on June 15 and burnt 13 Batwa houses, killed one sheep and destroyed household items and crops forcing the Batwa to flee in the nearby Bwindi National Park.
According to Uobdu, a local NGO working to secure the rights of the Batwa community, when the police arrested the perpetrators, the locals from Rubuguri, comprising members from Bakiga ethnic group attacked the Rubuguri police post demanding his immediate release.
The confrontation attracted other persons including a group of Bakiga elders who arrived armed with sticks, behaving in a menacing manner. The police was forced to release the Bakiga to avoid escalating tensions.
"Targeting a whole community in this way is unacceptable. Not only does such behavior violate the Batwa's fundamental human rights, but it also directly contravenes the law on natural justice," says Henry Neza, UOBDU’s Advocacy Officer.
This is not the first time there is a deliberate move to single out such a community with threats, intimidation and harassment. Similar incidents have happened in the same community. for example in November 2011 a Mutwa woman named Nyambuga was raped and killed by unknown people.
Peninah Zaninkah, the UOBDU Executive Director, said she is not ‘shocked by the attacks.’ Zaninkah added, 'Although it appears an isolated incident, it points to deep seated tensions between the Bakiga and the Batwa caused by historical injustices and discrimination.’
In this recent incident, it is alleged that if it were not for the intervention of officers from the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces who were on routine patrol, the Bakiga would have pursued the Batwa in the forest to harm them.
With the support of the United Nations and Red Cross, UOBDU organised relief items including food, jerrycans, saucepans, tumplines and blankets for 26 Batwa who were camping at Rubuguri Police post and later moved to CARE resource centre near the Army Barracks in Rubuguri trading center.
UOBDU in collaboration with local government officials, including the Resident District Commissioner, Deputy Police Commander and the local media, organised a grand conciliatory rally at Rubuguri football playground over the weekend with hundreds of thousands of Bakiga and Batwa in which the district security agencies warned the Bakiga against mob justice and incitement of violence.
The local Deputy Police Commander Otim Bosco reportedly warned to charge anybody who incites violence.
Notes to the Editor
• UOBDU is a local community based organisation working to secure the rights of the Batwa community
To arrange interviews please contact:
• Henry Neza - UOBDU
Capacity Building Officer United Organization for Batwa Development
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Photo: Mutwa woman
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