KAMPALA – A group of Ugandan lawmakers have sent a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ask for an investigation into possible atrocities by security forces when they clashed with a tribal militia late last year.
According to an official toll, 62 people were killed in November when a combined force of soldiers and police officers clashed with a tribal leader’s guards in the Rwenzori region near Uganda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
William Nzoghu, a legislator from the area and one of six members of parliament who sent the petition, said the number of people killed exceeded 200 and that police and the army “jointly committed a genocide and crimes against humanity”.
“We are saying let the ICC come and investigate,” he told Reuters late on Wednesday.
The area, which has been beset by unrest in recent years, often votes for the opposition in general elections.
Critics of the 72-year-old, long-standing president, Yoweri Museveni, accuse his government of deliberately stoking violence in the region as retribution for its residents’ rejection of his ruling party candidates.
In an emailed response, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor told Reuters it had received the petition and that it would announce a decision in “due course”.
Rights group Amnesty International said that during the clashes several people appeared to have been “summarily shot dead and their bodies dumped”. It described the killings as extrajudicial.
The tribal leader, Charles Wesley Mumbere, was arrested at the time and subsequently charged with treason, murder and other crimes. Scores of his guards were also detained.
At a court appearance, some of them – bearing open wounds on visible parts of their bodies – alleged torture by security forces and said they had been denied medical attention.
Security officials reject claims that the Rwenzori area is being deliberately destabilised, and instead accuse Mumbere and others in the area of seeking to secede from Uganda.
In the last general election in February 2015, the Rwenzori region heavily favoured Kiiza Besigye, Museveni’s main opponent.
Electoral officials declared Museveni, in power since 1986, the winner but Besigye rejected the results and says he won.
The east African country has many tribal leaders who largely hold ceremonial roles, though they also wield considerable social influence in their respective areas.