Uganda: blaze at kings’ burial site sparks fears of unrest

A UN-recognized World Heritage Site housing the burial grounds of the kings of Buganda was gutted by fire outside Uganda‘s capital of Kampala March 15, sparking fears of renewed tension between the government and ethnic Baganda. Police were deployed to the site in Kasubi, a suburb of the capital, as stones were thrown at firefighters arriving to tackle the blaze.

Kasubi houses burial grounds for four former kings of Buganda. The last king was buried there in 1971. There was no immediate confirmation of the cause of the blaze, and police said investigations are underway. Buganda is one of Uganda’s four historic kingdoms, and the Baganda the country’s most populous ethnic group.

Last September, riots in Kampala left at least 17 dead after the government prevented Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, the current Buganda king, from visiting a district near the capital. The government said the district had its own traditional ruler and it did not owe allegiance to the king. The kingdom’s radio station—the Central Broadcasting Service—remains banned after it was taken off air,accused of inciting violence.

Monarchies were restored in Uganda in 1993 after being banned in the 1960s, although hereditary kings are not allowed to participate in elections by either runnning or fielding candidates. (AlJazeera, March 17)

The same day as the blaze, students rioted at Makerere University, the country’s largest. According to Ugandan newspapers, the protests began after two students were shot dead and another critically injured by a security guard during a meeting about the current Student Guild elections. (Global Voices Online, March 17)

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