Ugandans make palace fit for king

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KAMPALA (AP) - Slashing trees, burning grass, and hauling debris, some 40,000 Ugandan royalists are working to prepare the hilltop palace for the return the king of Buganda.

The palace at Lubiri, just west of Kampala, was once the pride of Buganda with its high walls, beautiful gardens and lake.

Before Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, a British-trained lawyer who is the king or "Kabaka" of Uganda's largest tribe, can repossess the palace - which had been turned into a barracks - it needs a thorough scrubbing.

"I came here to join the others in cleaning up the palace,"Rovinsa Namusoke, 54, said. "It looks like a cave. We must clean it for our lord."

Military experts have sealed off suspected minefields around the palace for clearing but royalists complain they are short of money to restore glory to the palace. By tradition, the king is forbidden to enter the palace until he has been anointed by witch doctors, healers and soothsayers.

King Mutebi generally spends his time raising money to help street children and advising on planting trees. But after 1993, when President Yoweri Museveni restored monarchiesthat had been abolished in the Sixties, Mutebi found himself in the role of the Kabaka.