The once huge chunk of land, the home to the dead royalists of Ankole has been reduced to a miniature plot. Daily Monitor investigations reveal that the land was sold to private developers.
Given the huge crowds expected to turn up for the burial of Prince John Barigye on Sunday, the remaining burial site might not be able to accommodate the numbers.
When Daily Monitor visited the site, it looked like it has been deserted for years with demarcated plots of land close to the graves and few locals tiding the graveyard. However, residents claim the burial site for the Ankole kings at Nkokonjeru in Kamukuzi Division in Mbarara Town is no more as most of the land has either been sold off or grabbed.
The Ankole Kingdom spokesperson, Mr George William Katatumba, and the information/advocacy director for the Nkore Cultural Trust, Mr Justus Muhanguzi, could not readily give a position on what happened to the land.
“That land could have been sold by the custodian or grabbed by people,” Mr Muhanguzi said yesterday.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the late prince had a hand in the sale.
“We are negotiating with some developers that bought this land to remove the boundary marks not to disappoint the subjects but most of the land as you see was sold off,” said one of the residents that was found at the burial grounds, who refused to be identified, saying he is not an official spokesperson for the kingdom but a concerned subject.
Another resident, Ms Annah Katushabe, said they have decided to take it upon themselves to clear the burial grounds after seeing no signs of officials from government or the kingdom coming up to clean the place. “I have lived around this place for more than 10 years but the place has been deserted and after we heard of Prince Barigye’s death, we decided to come and clean it as kingdom subjects,” she said.
“But what hurts us is that most of the kingdom’s land around this place has been sold and now they are telling the people that bought these pieces of land to remove the boundary marks so as not to disappoint the kingdom subjects,” Ms Katushabe added.
Daily Monitor has since learnt that the kingdom land was sold to some tycoons in Mbarara, including a legislator from Tooro sub-region, under unclear circumstances.
“He (Barigye) sold the land himself, so as long as there is some small piece remaining where he can be buried we have no problem. However, what we appeal to government is according him a decent burial,” said Mr Apollo Mabati, a senior citizen.
Mr Didas Tabaro, the head of research and youth at the Ankole Cultural Trust, could neither deny nor admit the kingdom’s burial site has been encroached on.
“Our king might have been misled over the kingdom property because before his death he was a frustrated man from what he said after being denied coronation,” Mr Tabaro said.He, however, added that efforts are being made by officials and government to clean up the tombs ahead of Sunday’s burial.