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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own