Historic tree and cradle of Uganda’s Education falls

Students and members of staff of Kyambogo University look at the Canarium tree, commonly known as Muwafu, which fell down during the night downpour on February 27, 2024. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • It is said the historical tree that had been in existence for more than 150 years, occupied part of the King’s Palace.

The downpour at Kyambogo University on Monday fell one of Uganda’s oldest trees also claimed to have marked a historic spot of formal education in Uganda. 
Archaeologists at Kyambogo University say it was under this Canarium tree, commonly known as Muwafu in central Uganda, that the 30th King of Buganda, Walugembe Muteesa I, met American explorer Henry Morton Stanley and wrote a letter that invited Anglican missionaries. It is said the historical tree that had been in existence for more than 150 years, occupied part of the King’s Palace.

In 1877, the first batch of Christian missionaries were sent to Buganda Kingdom by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in response to Muteesa’s letter that was published in London in the Daily Telegraph in November 1875. 
The missionaries introduced both Christian instruction and formal education in Uganda. 

During the reign of Muteesa I, the Banda Palace stretched up to the current space occupied by Kyambogo University. The palace is also significant for hosting the meeting between Muteesa I, early European explorers John Speke, and James Grant in 1862. 
“We are proud of this tree because it is the beginning of our formal education. So, without this letter that was signed from here, we would not be where we are now,” Prof Elizabeth Kyazike, an archeologist in the Faculty of Humanities at Kyambogo University, said in an interview with Monitor yesterday. 

“The university had planned to construct a Teacher Technical Education Building in that place but after getting to know the story about this tree, we requested the management to spare the tree because it has history that tells us where we are coming from and where we are heading to,” she added. 
Similarly, Dr Stephen Kasumba, the Director of the Institute of Distance Education, E-Learning and Learning Centre at Kyambogo University, who was the first staff member to witness the spectacular collapse of the tree on Monday, said losing such an historical tree was a shock to him. 

“I ask the university administration to set up a museum for education purposes and also gazette the area for that purposes,”  Dr Kasumba pleaded. 
Mr Moses Jjuuko, the President of Kyambogo University History, Archaeology and Heritage students Association (KYUHAHSA), said the tree is not only important to Kyambogo University, but also to Buganda Kingdom and Uganda as a nation. 

“On this note, as KYUHAHSA, we are very determined to preserve this place where the tree once stood so that even when the tree is no more, the place does not lose its significance,” Mr Jjuuko stated in his February 27 letter addressed ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ 
Mr Charles Mashara, a third year student from the Department of History, also called upon the university management to find a way of preserving and honouring the place. 

“As a student of history, this tree has been one of the historical heritages we learn about. I request the university to preserve this place so that it remains in the history of Buganda and Uganda,” Mr Mashara said.  
Mr Reuben Twinomujuni, the institution’s senior public relations officer, said the university has plans to replant the same type of tree in the same spot to preserve the historic significance. 

“We shall also cut its big stem and take it to our Archaeology Department, where we shall study it and determine how old this tree was,” he added. 
“We are also thinking of liaising with the Buganda Kingdom to see if they need something from this tree. We will give it to them so that we have these important materials kept,” Mr Twinomujuni added. 

The university spokesperson also said Kyambogo is planning to construct a museum that will curate such historical materials. 
The Buganda Kingdom Prime Minister said in an interview yesterday that the tree had been a cornerstone in the history of Buganda. 

“That is the tree under which Kabaka Muteesa I sat when he was writing the letter to Queen Victoria in 1875, inviting teachers and the letter was carried by Henry Morton Stanley,” Charles Peter Mayiga said.  
He said the tree started the process that culminated in the creation of Uganda because there were only communities but Buganda Kingdom was the cornerstone. 

“If you want to know the history of Uganda, you have to go back and look at the history of communities that formed the country, Uganda, before the colonialists came,” Katikkiro Mayiga said.