A group of Banyoro under Mubende Banyoro Committee (MBC) is taking the case against the British government in the Court of England over atrocities committed by the British army during the fight against Omukama Kabalega.
Ten members of MBC from Kibaale district sued the Uganda and British governments, the Kabaka of Buganda, the Electoral Commission, the Uganda Land Commission and the 3636 absentee land lords in Buyaga and Bugangaizi counties. After the war, Buyaga and Bugangaizi, in the present day Kibaale district, were given to Buganda Kingdom as a reward for their support to the British. A 1964 referendum returned the two, commonly known in Ugandan history as “the Lost Counties”, to Bunyoro but the absentee landlords still hold the land titles.
The suit, first filed in Uganda in 2007, seeks damages for crimes committed during the 1893-1899 war that ended with the capture of Kabalega and his eventual exile in the Seychelles Islands till 1923 when he died on his way back to his kingdom.
The civil suit was first registered in the High court of Uganda with the complainants seeking 1.5 billion Pounds as reparation for the atrocities.
Their lawyer then, Crispus Ayena Odongo, argued that the scorched earth policy employed by the British forces during the war reduced the population of Bunyoro from 2.5 million before the war to 150,000 after.
Kyabangi Katta Musoke, the Chairman of MBC, who is also the lead petitioner, claims that following the petition, the Queen of England paid 700 million Pounds.
Quoting President Yoweri Museveni, Musoke says the money was channeled through government which would later pass it over to the Banyoro. He says however about six years later, the money has never been paid to them and their continuous demands have fallen on deaf ears.
Musoke says they are now moving the court case from the Ugandan High Court to the Court of England, which has jurisdiction over the Queen. The MBC Chairman explains that unlike in the previous case, they are now broadening it to include all the Banyoro, since British atrocities were not only committed in Kibaale.
Doviko Batwale, the MBC National Coordinator, says the group is now moving around the region meeting the Banyoro to brief them about the new move before lodging the case.
The meetings began on Wednesday in Nalweyo, Kibaale district and on Thursday the group met people in Hoima. Batwale says in all the meetings they are moving with their British lawyers to personally get local views before the case can start.
From 1.5 billion Pounds, Batwale now talks about reparations ranging from eight to 20 billion Pounds.
In December last year Mubende Banyoro Committee members carried out protests in the region complaining over failure by government to release the 700million Pounds.
It took the intervention of police chief Kale Kayihura to meet their leaders and promise urgent government intervention.
Chwa II Kabalega, Bunyoro’s most powerful King, fought British forces from December 1893 up until his capture in Dokolo, Lango in April 1899.
Britain occupied the kingdom up to 1933, when Kabalega’s successor, Sir Tito Winyi, was forced into an agreement with the colonial masters, keeping Bunyoro-Kitara as part of the British colony until 1961, when Uganda gained internal sovereignty.