Friday, March 19, 2010



Olara Otunnu and his team rush to their damaged vehicle to flee from the tombs yesterday

By Brian Mayanja and Henry Mukasa
Thursday, 18th March, 2010

ANGRY Buganda loyalists yesterday pelted Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) president Olara Otunnu with stones before chasing him away from the burnt Kasubi tombs.

Otunnu was leading a team of party officials on a tour of the world famous tombs which were burnt to ashes on Monday night.

A group of people calling themselves The Ganda Group, accused the officials of politicking around the grave of Sir Edward Muteesa whose death, they said, was caused by the UPC government.

Former UPC leader Apolo Obote in 1966 ordered the then army commander, Idi Amin, to attack Muteesa’s palace at Lubiri-Mengo, forcing the monarch to flee into exile in the UK. Obote was the executive prime minister.

Many of Muteesa’s loyalists were killed in the raid, while Muteesa died in exile in 1969.

Otunnu, who won the UPC presidency recently and is slated to compete for the presidency next year, arrived at the tombs quietly at 10:00am. After the tour, he tried to address journalists in English, but the crowd protested. Some demanded that he speaks in the local language of Luganda and sings the Buganda anthem. Otunnu failed both tests. In response, the irate crowd drove him out of the royal site.

Otunnu, accompanied by party secretary general Chris Opoka, chairman Yonah Kanyomozi and vice-president Badru Wegulo, tried in vain to convince the mob to listen to him. A man only identified as Wasswa said Otunnu’s presence brought memories of the 1966 crisis. An elderly man from Kayunga district, Abbas Ssebaggala, said Otunnu’s visit was unwanted because the party continues to deny responsibility for the 1966 crisis.

The embittered youth hurled stones and insults at Otunnu’s team for about five minutes, shattering the windscreen of his vehicle.
No Mengo official was present. However, some sympathisers pleaded with the crowd and calmed the situation. This gave Otunnu the chance to flee.

His first stop was Mengo, the seat of the Buganda kingdom, where he sought to meet Katikkiro JB Walusimbi.

Speaking to journalists, Otunnu condemned the fire which he described as a brutal act. He said the tombs were both a national and global heritage and that the entire country had suffered loss.

The “heartless attackers”, he said, must be brought to book for such an “insult on traditional African values”.

Otunnu said he would support the reconstruction of the structure.
His press secretary, Robert Kanuusu, said the UPC leader’s visit to Kasubi and Mengo was the beginning of his attempts to reconcile the party and Buganda. Asked for a comment, Buganda minister for research David Mpanga advised politicians not to try to make “political mileage” from the tragedy.

“This is not time for politicking,” Mpanga commented.

FDC leader Col. Kizza Besigye and DP president Norbert Mao visited the tombs on Wednesday.

In a statement yesterday, Mao said the fire had destroyed a “treasure”.

“We join the kingdom of Buganda in lamenting and condemning the fire and those capricious and malevolent characters who planned and executed this criminal and ignominious act,” he said.

Mao called for a “special fund” to preserve cultural sites. 
Hundreds of Buganda loyalists yesterday continued to trek to the tombs bringing with them building materials.

State minister for culture Gabriel Opio yesterday said the Government was waiting for Mengo to draw up “a bills of quantities” before it can announce its contribution.

“The facts and extent of damage are not known. We are in touch with Mengo,” Opio said.

He described Kasubi tombs as “a masterpiece of human creativity both in construction and execution.”