On June 30, 1962 three months before Uganda independence, the Rwenzururu Movement demanding, among other things, independence of Bakonzo and Bamba from Toro Kingdom was born. On 2 September 1966, Isaya Mukirania, the founder of the movement which had developed into Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR) died and his son, His Majesty Charles Mumbere Wesley Iremangoma took over the cultural leadership of OBR as its king. The movement continued in the mountains until 1982 when the King came down from the mountain under special arrangements with the Uganda Government at the time.
Apart from the Rwenzururu movement, there have been four other uprisings which created incessant violence, tension and instability. These included the Uganda National Liberation Front activities which started in 1979, the National Resistance Movement bush war that started in 1981, the (ADF-NALU) which was formed in 1995, and the post ‘Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu’ attacks of 2014 and 2016. These conflicts caused retardation in education among other areas of development.
While there are over 60 universities and more than 150 other tertiary institutions in Uganda, none of them was located in Kasese district. Realizing the need for one, four individuals from the community came together in 2017 and decided to establish a university in Kasese Municipality and call it Rwenzori International University (RIU). Working together with other people of like mind and good will, they identified people who would lead out in the project of whom Dr. Nathaniel M. Walemba, a native of the Rwenzoris, was appointed to serve as the leader of the project. For a period of five years, he led a team of five volunteers from the community, in putting together what was needed for the estblishment of a university.
On June 13, 2022, the National Council for Higher Education of Uganda having been satisfied with the accomplishments on the ground and the governance structures that the Project Board of Directors had put in place, granted the University a provisional license to operate as a private university in Uganda, and on August 15, 2022, the University was launched by Hon. Kabyanga Godfrey Baluku Kiime, Minister of State for National Guidance. On the same day, Dr. Nathaniel M. Walemba was installed as its first Vice Chancellor.
Kasese Municipality where the University is located is the 10th most populated urban center in Uganda . It is noted that Rwenzori International University is the first indigenous degree granting institution in Kasese, the 5th largest district in Uganda in terms of population. RIU is the first among the Bakonzo, the 13th tribe among the 56 tribes of Uganda in terms of population. However the institution has the potential to serve a population of over 2 million people of Kasese and the neighboring districts of Rubirizi, Kamwenge, Bunyangabu, Eastern DRC, and the country as a whole. The University has started with three faculties namely, Faculty of Health and Natural Sciences, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the School of Business.
According to the National Population and Housing Census of 2014, only 6.6% of the people of Kasese who were above the age of 18 had completed 4 years of secondary school against the national average of 15.4%; and those above the age of 20 and were no longer in school, only 1.4% had completed Advanced Level against the national average of 4.3%. The implication of this is, that those who had a university degree then were fewer than 1.4%, since those who join universities must have an A-level certificate.
The university has the potential to serve five political districts, which include Kasese, Bunyangabu, Kabarole, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo. Kasese district, which is the home of the university, is further bordered by the districts of Kamwenge on the South East and Rubirizi on the South. These seven districts have a combined population of more than 2,000,000 people, with Kasese’s 810,400 inhabitants accounting for more than one third of the total. Moreover, on the other side of the Rwenzori is the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with over 6 million people of whom some are possible students of the University, especially now that the country is a member of the East African Community.
Having started with 56 students during last year, it is phenomenal that within one year, the number has risen to more than 270 students. We expect it to grow to more than 300 by the end of the second semester of this second year. This is so because admission is done every semester, ie August and January.