The Bunyoro Kingdom’s £500 billion ($313 million) claim for reparation against the United Kingdom is taking an even more serious turn as the monarchy’s representatives now consider taking their case to the International Criminal Court.
The representatives have sought advice from the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda about the possibility of suing the British Government for crimes committed by its soldiers in western Uganda during the colonial period.
“We want to file the case against the Queen of England in the International Criminal Court because we want less state interference in Uganda,” Mr Dodoviko Batwale, one of the representatives, told The EastAfrican last week.
Mr Batwale is among the 10 people representing the indigenous Banyoro from Kibaale District, the territory the British carved out to the Buganda for their support during the campaign to subdue Bunyoro’s six-year resistance (1893-1899) to colonial expansion in Uganda.
“The ICTR Registrar has asked us to submit our evidence before guiding us on how we can proceed on this matter,” Mr Batwale said. “We are gathering the evidence and will take it to Arusha next month.”
The Banyoro have compiled hundreds of reports (evidence) made by British field officers “to plunder and kill” in their original handwriting both in England and Uganda. The records mention vast quantities of ivory, food, cattle, cloth, cultural items looted by British troops, and destruction of villages and slaughtering of civilians by Nubian soldiers.
“British troops totally disregarded the food requirements of the indigenous inhabitants, who were doomed to hunger, starvation, malnutrition and disease, elements that reduced the population from 2.5 million people to a mere 100,000 people by 1900,” the Banyoro claim.
The kingdom’s most powerful King (Omukama), Cwa II Kabalega, fought British forces from December 1893 up to April 1899, resisting colonial domination and alien occupation.
Britain occupied the kingdom up to 1933, when, under the yoke of colonialism, Kabalega was forced into an agreement with the colonial masters. Bunyoro-Kitara remained part of a British colony until 1961, when Uganda gained sovereignty.
The EastAfrican has learnt that the lawsuits were part of the Queen’s agenda when presided over the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in 2007. But, somehow, the Banyoro were left out of the talks between England and Uganda.
“After Chogm, President Museveni met us on June 10, 2009 in State House and told as that Her Majesty the Queen of England does not want to be embarrassed, and therefore wants to settle the matter out of court. She has offered £700 million to settle the case. This money will be paid in instalments over a 10-year period,” Mr Batwale said.
“We are disputing the conclusions of the talks between England and the Government of Uganda because we were not part and parcel of the negotiations. And we don’t know whether the £700 million is as a result of our case. Besides, there is no written document to that effect.
The President meeting the Queen was not bad, but we should have been part of the talks. The President promised to meet us again over the same matter, but we have failed to fix an appointment with his office,” said Mr Batwale.
Reported by Bamuturaki Musinguzi and Sam Wakhakha