Uganda’s president said on Tuesday that deadly attacks on its security forces near its new oil fields in the west were sparked by a power tussle between local tribes, apparently ruling out Islamists who were once active there.
Gunmen on Saturday attacked police stations and a military barracks across three districts in Uganda’s Rwenzori region along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), killing 17 people including policemen and soldiers.
The security forces said they responded by killing more than 60 attackers and had deployed extra troops to restore security in the area near oil fields where Uganda aims to start commercial crude production by about 2017.
In his statement, Museveni attributed the violence to a long-running tussle involving the Bakonzo, the dominant tribe in the Rwenzori region, and another tribe over who was their tribal monarch. Tribal monarchs have ceremonial powers in Uganda.
“It seems some groups hatched this criminal scheme that has caused the death of so many people,” he said.
However, Museveni did not clearly explain why attackers hit Ugandan security forces as a result of the row. He also made no mention of the Islamist rebel group ADF-NALU in the statement.
ADF-NALU waged an insurgency against the Ugandan government in the late 1990s and 2000s in the same area where the latest attacks occurred. It was eventually driven away and fled to bases in the loosely governed eastern region of Congo next door.
Ugandan officials have privately voiced worries that a resurgent ADF-NALU would pose a threat to its oil fields in the Albertine rift basin, where Tullow Oil, Total and China’s CNOOC are operating.
Museveni criticised the intelligence services for failing to prevent the attacks and said the gunmen had wanted to overrun a Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) barracks but were thwarted.
“How did these people weave such a scheme without being pre-empted?” he said. “However, their main effort, which was to enter the camp of 39BN (army battalion) was decisively defeated.”