Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: M7 blocked from Kasubi, 3 shot

MENGO, KAMPALA - Chaos has engulfed Kasubi after the military opened fire when a crowd of people briefly blocked President Yoweri Museveni from accessing the site.

The military opened fire that lasted at least five minutes to disperse rioters who had placed logs in the road leading up to the cultural site, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that went up in flames on Tuesday night. At least three people have been shot and injured and immediately carried away by the military. A man, whose identity has not yet been revealed, has been arrested at the tombs with a pistol. The man, in civilian clothes, was led away from the tombs by the military. It is not clear whether he had used the pistol.

Meanwhile, the Buganda cabinet is set to convene early today in a special meeting to forge the way forward following the destruction of the kingdom’s historic site.

The main building housing the mausoleums of four former Buganda kings (Kabakas) was completely burnt down in just a few minutes in a fire that started at around 8.30pm. The kingdom’s Deputy Information minister, Medard Sseggona, said, "We are convening an urgent cabinet meeting to discuss the way forward. It’s too sad that we have lost such valuable property as the kingdom. We will also set up independent investigations as a kingdom." Other dignitaries that have visited the scene include the Buganda kingdom's attorney general, Apollo Makubuya, and David Mpanga, the kingdom’s research minister.

It has also been reported that Peter Sematimba, the Rubaga division chairman was beaten up and denied access to the site this morning. Pastor Peter Sematimba, NRM's flambuoyant LC3 chairman of Rubaga Division, is a Kampala businessman and radio entrepreneur-cum-evangelist, and is best remembered for performing a "Michael Jackson obscene dance" last year at Sabrina's Pub, a popular hangout in downtown Kampala.

Sematimba, who went to the tombs to join in the reconstruction effort following last night’s fire, was blocked from entry by a large group of young men. They accused Sematimba, a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), of anti-Buganda sentiments and threw stones and bricks at him, warning of severe consequences should he should dare enter the premises. Consequently, he fled into Kasubi Church of Uganda, which is located just outside the gate to the tombs. The mob also roughed up beat up Mama Fina, the chairperson of the traditional medicine practitioners association, Uganda ne Eddagala Lyayo.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people continue to throng the site in search of answers to what caused the fire. Buganda loyalists, who have been camped at the site since Tuesday night, have been singing the Buganda anthem in a mournful, sorrowful mood.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

See the Royal Kasubi Tombs inferno in pictures.

The historic Kasubi Tombs last night went up in flames, engulfing the main building housing the mausoleums of four former Buganda Kabakas.

Hundreds of Kingdom subjects, some prostrating, crying and screaming, gathered in front of the embers. The grass-thatched hut was completely destroyed within minutes, leaving the skeletal brick wall. The burial grounds, revered by the Baganda, are 128 years old.

Witnesses said the blaze started around 8.30pm. One woman, Lydia Nabambulide, said she heard "a loud explosion" behind the tombs, just before the fire began. She said, "I saw a white box wrapped in something like bark cloth and it looked strange." A white pickup truck with no registration numbers, reportedly emerged from the tombs shortly after the fire broke out, Mr Andrew Jjuko said, quoting Boda-boda riders who were at the scene.

Other reports suggested that a fleeing man shot in the air to scare away the riders in his pursuit. Mr Charles Peter Mayiga, the Buganda information minister, said they were puzzled by the mysterious fire outbreak and "it is a dark moment for the kingdom". "We don’t know what is really going on in the kingdom," he said.

Earlier, an agitated crowd chased away Police fire fighters who pulled up to quell the fire around 9.20pm. Security operatives, who surrounded the tombs, shot several times in the air to force back a charged mass of people that advanced towards the firemen. A light shower did nothing to tame the flames.

Buganda Katikkiro, John Baptist Walusimbi, arrived shortly after 10pm and looked distraught as he inspected the extent of damage to the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga.

He was quickly surrounded by his subjects, many prostrating in the wet soil. They burst into singing the Buganda anthem as one of them sounded the kingdom’s big drum to mobilise more of the subjects.

The cause of the fire is yet to be established, said police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba. Mr Musa Sevume, suspecting arson, said, "Buganda is here and it will stay. Buganda is more than just the tombs. We will replace them." Another kingdom subject, who only identified himself as Jacob, said amid sobs that the tombs are "part of us and they should at least leave history alone."

The Kasubi tombs, situated four kilometers west of Kampala city, is a Unesco certified World Heritage site that brings in millions of shillings to Buganda kingdom by way of tourism.

The Kabakas buried at the tombs include:

Muteesa I (1835-1884)

Basamula Mwanga II (1867-1903)

Daudi Chwa II (1896-1939)

Sir Fredrick Walugembe Muteesa II (1924-1969)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The mysterious fires that have gutted schools and now Kasubi Royal tombs,should give us something to reflect upon especially regarding our security, How could a UNESCO HERITAGE CENTRE be caught in such nebulous circumstances,who is to blame the citizens or the protector of the citizens, i think our safety and security of our country should be prioritized!