Ugandan royal tomb fire stokes tensions between government and king

Ugandan forces shoot at protesters trying to block President from historic site

Ugandan security forces killed two people and wounded five yesterday after fire destroyed historic royal tombs, heightening tension between the government and the powerful Bugandan kingdom.

Witnesses said the shooting happened when security forces were clearing Bugandan loyalists from the charred remains of the tombs where their royalty are buried, so President Yoweri Museveni could visit the site. Red Cross officials carried away a number of people with gunshot wounds.

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said two people were killed at the tombs and five wounded. She said it was not clear who was responsible for the deaths.

The cause of Tuesday's blaze, which destroyed the thatched-roof mausoleum and centuries-old royal artefacts at the Unesco World Heritage Site, has not been identified, but some protesters suspected foul play. "They have a wide conspiracy of destroying everything that marks there was a great kingdom called Buganda, and this is one of them," said loyalist Jemba Erisa.

The Baganda are Uganda's largest tribe and were instrumental in the President coming to power 24 years ago. Mr Museveni based his five-year military struggle in the kingdom's heartland and support by the Baganda has helped him stay in power.

But relations have been increasingly strained since the President last year blocked the reigning Bugandan monarch, or Kabaka, Ronald Mutebi, from visiting a part of his kingdom. The stand-off sparked two days of rioting in the capital, Kampala, during which at least 15 people were killed. Hundreds were arrested and the authorities also shut down the kingdom's radio station for allegedly fanning violence.

Analysts say Buganda is being used by the opposition as a tool for political mobilisation against Mr Museveni and have predicted more turmoil before presidential elections next year.

The Bugandan king wants more autonomous control over resources in his kingdom, such as land and taxes, but the government says he is only a cultural figure and must steer clear of politics.

A Bugandan kingdom official, Charles Peter Mayiga, said the gutted mausoleum was built in 1860 by Kabaka Mutesa I and that its historical and cultural significance was an object of deep reverence by the Baganda people.

The kingdom's leadership was meeting to try to find out what had caused the fire. The police said they had not established how it started. "Our officers are at the scene trying to examine every available evidence and piece together bits of information to establish what clearly happened, but no conclusion has been reached yet," said Judith Nabakooba.

A local daily paper did not rule out arson. "A white numberless pick-up truck reportedly emerged from the tombs shortly after the fire broke out," it said, quoting motorcycle taxi riders near the scene.

Explainer: Kingdom of Buganda

* Buganda is one of four historical kingdoms and home to the Buganda people the largest ethnic group who make up 17 per cent of the population.

* Uganda, the Swahili term for Buganda, was adopted by British officials as the name of the entire protectorate in 1894.

* The kingdoms were abolished by Milton Obote in 1962 but President Museveni restored their cultural and ceremonial powers in the early 1990s.

* Buganda's leaders now want an area of 9,000 square miles to form an autonomous region.

* The King of Buganda is known as the Kabaka.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all