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Ugandan Troops Move Against Tribal King in Rebel Region

A long-running conflict between armed rebels and Ugandan security forces in a remote district near the Democratic Republic of Congo border escalated Sunday when Ugandan troops moved against a tribal king.


Gunfire erupted outside the palace of Charles Wesley Mumbere, the king of the Bakonzo people, when the Ugandan troops tried to disarm Mr. Mumbere’s guards and arrest him. The security forces overwhelmed the guards, broke into the palace and took Mr. Mumbere to a police post for questioning.

Capt. Arthur Timbaganya, a spokesman for Ugandan troops in the area, said Mr. Mumbere was not under arrest, but had been “rescued” from the palace for his own safety. The police disputed that account, saying the king had been detained.

Armed rebels in the Ruwenzori region are believed to be loyal to the king, who has been a vocal critic of Uganda’s longtime president, Yoweri Museveni. The government has accused Mr. Mumbere of leading the rebels.

Some of the king’s supporters have called for Ruwenzori to secede from Uganda and become a republic called Yiira, according to Col. Shaban Bantariza, a government spokesman. He said the secessionists had set up military camps in the mountains and formed a rebel government for the territory, which has even printed its own currency.

At least 55 people — 41 rebels and 14 police officers — have been killed in rebel attacks on police posts and in other clashes in the Ruwenzori region, a police spokesman, Felix Kaweesi, told reporters on Sunday.

Colonel Bantariza said the security forces had attacked Mr. Mumbere’s palace, in the Kasese district, after four police officers were killed on Friday and Saturday.

Mr. Mumbere has denied any role in the attacks on police posts.

Mr. Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, has struggled to win support from the Bakonzo people. There are frequent disputes over land ownership, and a government plan to divide Kasese into two parts has been fiercely opposed. An earlier violent insurgency in the area, led by the Allied Democratic Forces, was driven out of Uganda and is now based in Congo.

Jimirasire

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