Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi broke down in tears as he surveyed the ruins of Kasubi Tombs where his father and grandfather were buried.
The Kabaka on Wednesday visited the shell that once housed his forefather’s regalia among other cultural items at around 1.40pm amid ululations and cheers, as hundreds of his subjects swamped it screaming his name and singing the Buganda anthem.
He arrived minutes after President Museveni had visited the site.
After braving the emotional moment for about five minutes, Kabaka Mutebi later pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped away tears that were rolling down his face. This sent the mammoth crowd in a frenzy with some chanting anti-government slogans.
Together with Nabagereka Sylvia Nagginda, the Kabaka walked around the royal tombs for at least 10 minutes before joining other royal family members in a distant shrine about 100 metres from the royal cemetery.
The historic tombs went up in flames on Tuesday night, engulfing the main building which housed the mausoleum of four former kabakas - Ssekabaka Muteesa I, Ssekabaka Basamul’ekkere Mwanga II, Ssekabaka Daudi Chwa II and Ssekabaka Edward Muteesa II.
The grass-thatched hut was completely destroyed, leaving the skeletal brick wall and a few concrete pillars. The burial grounds, revered by the Baganda, are 128 years old.
He did not address the crowd but rather stuck to occasional waves as he toured the ruins for about 30 minutes. Thereafter, he entered his car which had to force its way through the masses.
The kingdom’s Information and Cabinet Affairs minister, Mr Charles Peter Mayiga said, the Kabaka’s breaking down is a clear sign of the prevailing situation in Buganda kingdom.
“It’s too sad that we have lost such valuable property as the kingdom. An independent investigation by the kingdom will be carried out,” Mr Mayiga said on Wednesday.
Mr Mayiga said the tombs are to be rebuilt.
“We had a meeting last night and came out with the resolution that the tombs will be restored. Of course there as certain things that can’t be replicated but we will do what we can. A technical team has been put up for that purpose and official communication to the public will soon be out.”
The same was echoed by Buganda’s Attorney General Apollo Makubuya who said they were determined to have the tombs back to their former glory.
“We have to restore our history,” he said. He however expressed dismay at the way the burning fire that engulfed the tombs was handled by the fire brigade.
“That fire started at 8pm but it took them ages to come here. And when they came they didn’t have enough water. Actually there was more tear gas and soldiers than water,” he said.
At Mengo, the seat of Buganda Kingdom, the main entrance remained half closed and flags were raised at half mast. Several offices remained closed as kingdom employees kept wondering who was behind the fire at the tombs.
Week of mourning
The kingdom premier [Katikkiro] Eng. John Baptist Walusimbi announced a week of mourning but linked the tombs destruction to the kingdom’s enemies.
“With deep sorrow, the kingdom informs the people of Buganda, Uganda and the rest of the world that people with ill motives set ablaze the museum housing the royal tombs of four deceased Kabakas of Buganda known as Muzibu Azaalampanga at Kasubi, in Kampala city,” Eng Walusimbi said at Mengo.
The Katikkiro also summoned the Lukiiko to convene on March 22 to forge the way forward.
Kasubi Market is one of the most thriving markets at the outskirts of Kampala but yesterday, it was rendered redundant as chaos engulfed the whole of Kasubi town. Running battles between the army and people at the Kasubi stage made it impossible for any kind of business to take place.