Uganda on Tuesday rejected charges by rights group Amnesty International that security forces carried out extra-judicial killings during clashes with the royal guards of a tribal king at the weekend.
Officials say no fewer than 46 guards and 16 police died when security forces stormed the palace of Charles Mumbere, the King of the Rwenzururu region, near Uganda’s border with Congo.
Jeje Odongo, Uganda’s Internal Affairs Minister, told a press conference in Kampala that security forces were being attacked, they had to defend and protect themselves.
“Security agencies do not have a shoot-to-kill policy. What happened is a situation of self-defense,” Mr. Odongo said.
Uganda has several tribal kings, who have a largely ceremonial role with some modest regional powers.
The Bakonzo, the dominant tribe in Rwenzori, have longstanding, colonial-era grievances against Uganda’s central government.
However the latest wave of unrest began shortly after Uganda’s disputed presidential elections in February.
Voters in the area overwhelmingly favoured Kizza Besigye, who ran against long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni.
Museveni was declared the winner, but Besigye rejected the results and his supporters insist he won the overall poll.
On Monday, rights group Amnesty International accused security forces of using disproportionate force, saying “many people appear to have been summarily shot dead”.
The organisation said the government should ensure that “police and soldiers observe restraint and desist from extra-judicial executions.”
International rights watchdog Human Rights Watch also said on Monday that the government needed to investigate the conduct of security forces during the clashes.
Some opposition officials and critics have accused Museveni’s government of provoking unrest in the region as punishment for its support for Besigye.
Mumbere who was detained on Sunday, is being held at a prison in eastern Uganda and 149 of his guards have been arrested.
When asked what the king’s fate was, Odongo said that they were investigating the circumstances, adding that “if we are able to establish responsibility, charges will be preferred.”