Monday March 20 2017

Sombre mood in plane as Muteesa makes last flight

The body of former Kabaka Edward M

The body of former Kabaka Edward Muteesa in Uganda in 1971. FILE PHOTO 

By Henry Lubega

In early 1971, I was in Germany pursuing my PhD in zoology when I got a call from my mother, Princess Nalinya Irene Ndagire who had been released from prison by the [Idi] Amin regime.
She was in the UK as part of the royal family that had come to collect the remains of her brother, Sir Edward Muteesa.

My mother asked me to go and pay my last respects to my uncle in London. When I got there, I was told there was a free seat on the plane and I could escort my uncle back home.

At Gatwick Airport, before departure, the Grenadier officers [an infantry regiment of the British Army] performed a military function before the body was loaded on the plane. It was a chartered plane.

On board were members of the Buganda royal family, some British government officials, friends, officers of the Grenadier and other invited people.

Also on aboard was the Uganda government delegation headed by then Foreign Affairs minister Joshua Wanume Kibedi.

The flight protocol dictated that the royal family and some government officials sat in the business class while the rest of us, including the Grenadier, were in the economy class. We left London at night and landed at Entebbe airport early the next morning.

On the flight from London, the mood was sombre; people were in total silence. It seemed no one was willing to start a conversation as it was hard to know what the other was thinking.

Those who talked did so in whispers. The experience was heart-breaking, as we landed at Entebbe airport, people started shading tears silently. It was at this moment that reality sunk in that Sir Edward Muteesa was indeed dead.
When we landed at Entebbe, there were hundreds of people at the waving bay of the terminal.
On the tarmac was then president Amin. He was to receive the body on behalf of the Uganda government while Mayanja-Nkangi (RIP), who was still keeping the Damula, disembarked with the rest of the royal family from the plane went to receive the body on behalf of the Kingdom of Buganda.

The Grenadier officers accompanying the body carried it from the plane.

The rest of us who were not part of the protocol joined the crowd waiting at the tarmac to see the body. When the Grenadier emerged from the plane with the coffin, a loud sound of people wailing broke out in the crowd.

For the many who had doubted the death of Muteesa it became real after seeing his coffin..
From the airport, I did not travel with my mother for she was part of the protocol moving with the body to Kampala.

I travelled independent of the protocol to Kasubi Tombs. Though there was no traffic jam those days, the journey from the airport to Kampala took more than two hours.

On the way to Kampala was a sea of people waiting to have a glimpse at the coffin. I did not go to Kololo Airstrip or Parliament; I waited for the public viewing at Namirembe Cathedral.

On the day of burial, I went to Kasubi Tombs early enough to catch a glimpse of the final moment. At Kasubi, the Grenadier officers escorted the body were a guard of honour was mounted by the Uganda army. There was also a gun salute.

Those of us who had the chance to enter the compound of the Kasubi enclosure saw the final moments, but we were not allowed inside the Muzibu’azalampaga where he was finally laid to rest.

The emotions at the Kasubi Tombs were high. There was a sea of people who turned up just to prove that Muteesa had indeed died and was buried.

Rita W. Matovu

I was a law student in London and was among the people who attended the first church service.

I had been in London for three months when the news of the death of Muteesa broke. The morning the news broke, we were preparing to go and celebrate his birthday. He died on the eve of his birthday.

There was a memorial service that was attended by many Ugandans and some British people. It was a dignified service.

Grenadier officers and other military officers who were friends with the late kabaka were in attendance. Then young Prince Ronald Mutebi was in attendance.
The body was brought to Bayswater Funeral parlour where it was kept for some days, during which time many Ugandans and virtually all Baganda in the UK at the time, many of them students, went to view it.
The body dressed in a Kanzu and a coat was viewed for about three days, there after it was taken away.”

Continues next Sunday

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