Fire burns Kasubi royal tombs again

Thursday July 25 2013
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Buganda Kingdom prime minister Charles Peter Mayiga addresses a gathering near Kasubi Tombs Thursday after the fire consumed one of the huts in which valued royal regalia was being kept. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Kampala- Another fire yesterday gutted one of the twin huts at Buganda Kingdom’s Kasubi Tombs destroying traditional regalia that were rescued from a huge fire which burnt down other structures on the site two years ago.
Authorities quickly deployed armed guards from Kabaka Ronald Mutebi’s security detail as people converged on the place.
In 2010, the tombs of four traditional kings were razed to the ground, provoking protests in which three people were shot dead and several others wounded after protestors clashed with presidential guard personnel.

Police suspect the fire was caused by an unattended charcoal stove, a claim workers have disputed.

“One of the eye witnesses told us that one of the women was seen rushing out of the hut with a sigiri (charcoal stove) after the fire started. They are not supposed to be cooking from inside. They could be guilty that is why they do not want to admit the blame,” The Officer-in-Charge Kawala Police Station, Mr Peter Twala, told journalists.

However, the workers say the cause of the fire was deliberate.
“It is not true that we were cooking on a sigiri. It seems someone came and started the fire through a roof opening. The door was closed and we were for a village meeting,” Mr Luyita Lwamukabya, one of the attendants, said.

Investigations are ongoing to establish the cause of the fire, Mr Twala said. It is not clear how long it will take for police to come up with its findings. A government commission of inquiry into the 2010 fire is yet to be made public. Similarly, police investigations into a spate of fire incidents around the country remain inconclusive.

The Kasubi Tombs, a world heritage site in Kampala which includes Buganda Kingdom’s 128-year-old mausoleum, was destroyed in the 2010 fire. The tombs have deep spiritual, political and religious significance for the Baganda, the largest ethnic group in Uganda. The site is also a popular tourist attraction.

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Given their numbers, the Baganda represent an important political bloc. They supported President Museveni when he took power in 1986. In turn, the President restored the country’s four ancient kingdoms as cultural institutions in 1993, 27 years after former leader Dr Apollo Milton Obote had abolished them.
Relations between the Buganda leadership and Mr Museveni have soured in recent years following demands by Kabaka Ronald Mutebi for greater autonomy and a return of kingdom assets. This has been strongly rejected by the government.
The fire comes days ahead of Kabaka Mutebi’s 20th coronation anniversary scheduled for Friday next week.

RECENT FIRES
October 2012 . A fire that claimed four lives broke out at Bulange, Buganda Kingdom headquarters.
August 8, 2012 . Fire gutted Bwanika House, a Buganda traditional site in Naggalabi, Wakiso District where celebrations to enthrone the Kabaka of Buganda are held.

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