Caretakers could have burnt Kasubi tombs

The fire that gutted Kasubi tombs early this year could have been caused by the caretakers themselves, a government official said yesterday.

Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry on Kasubi tombs, Ms Rose Nkalu Mwanja, the acting commissioner for museum and monuments in the Ministry of Tourism, said the caretakers used to cook near the tombs, a practice that could have caused the fire.

“I think the fire was an accident. Because of their old age, you could see the ladies cooking tea outside and they could even invite us for the tea,” Ms Mwanja said. “I think it was out of their negligence that sparks could have lit the tomb.”

The Buganda’s Kasubi tombs were burnt to the ground by unknown arsonists around 8:30pm on March 16. Three people were killed and tens nursed injuries at Mulago Hospital after they were allegedly shot by military police.

The Kasubi tombs are at risk of losing the status of World Heritage Site from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) after it emerged the commissioner said its construction could not be completed within the stipulated time.

“I don’t think the stipulated time for the completion of the tomb will be feasible because every step we are undertaking has to be approved,” Ms Mwanja said.

“The work is so great. Weaving alone needs a lot of time and therefore completing just in one year may not be possible.”

A source said that Kasubi tombs could be removed from the world heritage sites if its construction is not completed by March 16, 2012.

UNECO recognized Kasubi tombs as a World Heritage Site in 1999 and has been offering funds towards its maintenance including training of the caretakers and hiring external management experts.

Ms Mwanja said the government is launching a management plan on January 27 next year to spell out the roles and responsibilities of Kasubi tombs.

The management of Kasubi tombs was handed over to Buganda Kingdom after President Museveni reinstituted the country’s ancient kingdoms as cultural institutions in 1993, 27 years after former leader Milton Obote had abolished them.

The kabakas, who are revered by many of their subjects, were granted ceremonial powers but told to keep out of politics.

However, their relations between Buganda Kingdom and Museveni have soured in recent years following demands by the Kabaka Mutebi, for greater autonomy over the 9,000 square miles of kingdom land in central Uganda, the demand of which government has rejected.

The commission was also told that those who died during the scuffle at Kasubi tomb were a result of gun-shots.

They said Haruna Kagumba, a resident of Masanafu, Kirinya Zone and Cornelius Kayanja, a Kasubi resident died due to gun-shots. However, the late Harriet Namusisi, a resident of Kalerwe, a Kampala suburb, succumbed to death due to suffocation.

The post-mortem tests were carried out by Dr Moses Byaruhanga of Nsambya Police Barracks, Dr William Mutumba of Mbarara Hospital and Mulago Hospital’s Samuel Kalungi. They all testified.

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