Government didn’t torch tombs - Museveni

President Museveni has promised “dire consequences” for those spreading word that the government was behind the last week fire that burnt Kasubi tombs. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA

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He said it would not benefit the ruling party to destroy a cultural treasure it “liberated” alongside restoration of cultural institutions, after a 27-year hiatus.

President Museveni yesterday said his government never torched Kasubi tombs as is being “whispered” and warned those propagating such “wicked and slanderous lies” of dire consequences.

“I am waiting for someone to say so publicly and I really deal with him ... I am really dying to lay my hands on such a person,” he told a press conference at State House, Entebbe. “If anybody is not yet sure of the evil and wicked intentions of some of these elements, a slander like this is part of the proof.”

Mengo’s role
Fire razed Kasubi tombs, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site, on Tuesday and investigators are yet to establish if the blaze was an accident or arson.

The gutted building, named Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga, housed the mausoleum of four former Buganda kings; Daudi Chwa, Mutesa I, Mwanga and Mutesa II plus a horde of priceless royal insignia and other artifacts.

“The government neither contributed to the fire nor its prolongation. Instead it’s the government that put out the fire; saved the kings’ remains, the walls of the house and cemented floor and some of the artifacts and stopped the fire from spreading to other buildings,” Mr Museveni said.

He said “looking after” Kasubi burial ground has been a responsibility of Mengo since 1993 when NRM restored Buganda Kingdom.

“So why would NRM burn Kasubi tombs?” he said.
People spreading such rumours, said Mr Museveni, think they are “clever manipulators” but their “wickedness turns them into foolish people”.

He said it would not benefit the ruling party to destroy a cultural treasure it “liberated” alongside restoration of cultural institutions, after a 27-year hiatus.

Then premier Milton Obote abolished monarchies in 1966 after falling out with Buganda king, Mutesa I, then the country’s ceremonial president, over political power.

Yesterday, Mr Museveni drew on this history and his decision to revive the kingdoms to deflect accusations, partly labelled mid last week by Buganda Information Minister Charles Mayiga that the President has now turned against Buganda Kingdom.

Detectives are tracking masterminds of the “slanderous rumour”, the government announced.

The President blamed the bloody chaos after the fire on the “stupidity” of a rowdy crowd that stoned fire fighters, vandalised fire tenders/private vehicles as well as attempting to obstruct investigators and security personnel.

“Security forces are not dying to come to Kasubi. They went there because there was a problem. They didn’t go there as tourists,” he said, “So why should anybody obstruct them? This is a very big mistake and it must not be repeated in any other incident.”

Interfering with security
This was the President’s first substantive remarks on Tuesday’s fire and the melee, the next day, in which three people were shot dead - and a number injured - in confrontations between security forces and a pro-kingdom throng.

The gunfire rocked minutes before Mr Museveni arrived to tour the destroyed sites on Wednesday.

He explained yesterday that his impromptu visit was to ascertain whether the Police fire brigade responded timely to tame the blaze and if detectives are doing a clean job “to get to the bottom” of the incident.

“It’s not correct for anybody, for whatever reasons, to interfere with security forces when they are doing their work. This is a mistake; it’s against the law and logic,” he said.
The President ordered the government to assist families of the victims of the shootings and warned the public against provoking security forces unnecessarily.