Uganda: Baganda mourn kings’ burnt tombs block President’s visit

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Thousands of people in Uganda belonging to the Baganda kingdom have held a riot at the tombs of their late kings, which caught fire last night.

The grass thatched building which contained the five tombs of late kings, all the kings to have ruled Buganda kingdom in the last 100 years, caught fire last night. According to a police officer at a police post near the tombs, Chris Sali, the tombs caught fire at 8.30 but there are different versions about the cause of fire.

“Some people say that they saw someone setting fire on the tombs. They say he fled in a vehicle. Others say that young men who smoke opium near the tombs were responsible for setting the fire on the tombs,” Sali said.

Meanwhile, some people in the Buganda kingdom have accused the Ugandan government of setting the fire on the tombs. The government has vehemently denied the allegations.

Thousands of angry people stormed the tombs after the fire and started mourning. They fought with the police who had been deployed to contain
law and order. Four people have been admitted to hospital (Mulago) in Kampala after having sustained severe injuries.

President Museveni

The angry mob blocked Uganda’s president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni from
visiting the tombs. The President later canceled his visit.

Although President Yoweri Museveni restored Ugandan Kingdoms in 1993 — albeit establishing them as non-political cultural institutions — after they were abolished in 1967 by President Obote, the Baganda believe that the President has tried to limit the influence of the Buganda Kabaka (King).

Last September, clashes erupted in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, following a planned visit by King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi of the Buganda kingdom to the central district of Kayunga. About 20 people were killed.

Kayunga, which is part of the Buganda kingdom, is believed to be inhabited by mostly non-Baganda. The riots were sparked when the minority community in the largely Buganda populated area opposed the King’s trip.

The Kayungas who opposed the visit of the King said they had seceded from the Buganda Kingdom, while insisting that the Kabaka’s visit was politically motivated. A detail that is prohibited by the 1993 deal that restored the kingdoms.

Constitutional powers

The Baganda have been advocating for constitutional powers for Kings through the restoration of a federal administration that would formally recognize the political power of their King.

Buganda is the largest and most politically powerful kingdom with about 20 per cent of the total Ugandan population and constituting the largest single ethnic group in the country.

The Kingdom is strategically located in the central region along the shores of Lake Victoria and houses the nation’s capital, Kampala.

The Baganda have an estimated population of about five million people.

During the colonial era, Buganda became the most influential kingdom in Uganda when the British rewarded it for its collaboration by giving it territories that belonged to the western kingdom of Bunyoro.

Many Baganda have, for several years, unsuccessfully lobbied the government to introduce a federal form of government that would give some autonomy to the regions.

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