A town comes to terms with massacre’s aftermath

Kasese: Outside the mortuary in Kasese, grief-stricken families wait to find out if their missing relatives were among scores killed by Ugandan security forces at the weekend.
Huddling in groups, some pull clothes over their mouths and noses to mask the sickening stench of the decomposing corpses inside. Kikanda Bwambale, 40, was back at the mortuary to look for his older brother, Siriro, after being turned away the previous day.
Bwambale last heard from Siriro on Saturday when he visited the local king’s palace to discuss a land issue. That day, clashes broke out between royal guards and Ugandan police that left nearly 90 dead.
“My brother had never been to the palace before. He was a peasant, he didn’t know anything about politics or the kingdom,” said Bwambale. “I think he’s been shot.”
Mumbere Isaac, 27, was also looking for his brother, Nyanza. “The bodies in there are burnt and decomposed,” he said, distraught that he may be unable to identify the corpse.
Sobs rang out as coffins were loaded into trucks or carried to grave sites as families who had recovered their dead began holding funerals.
The official police toll from weekend fighting first given on Sunday stands at 62. However Kasese’s district police commander has said another 25 bodies were found in two sub-counties on Monday.
The government accuses King Charles Wesley Mumbere of stoking a secessionist rebellion and stormed his palace on Sunday to arrest him. He has been taken to the capital Kampala where he was charged with murder. But in Kasese there are different stories, with some suspecting the real toll tops 100.
Tembo Jockim of the Ugandan Red Cross said his team were blocked from the royal palace during the fighting and that many people remain missing.
“Civilians, wives to the royal guards were at the palace and we know that in the palace there were children and they’re seen neither in police custody nor in the death list,” Jockim said.
Cecile Brucker, a project co-ordinator with the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), was surprised by the low number of wounded that seemed out of step with the death toll. — AFP