Kasubi tombs

Kasubi Tombs is a World Heritage Site in Buganda Kingdom

Kasubi Tombs is situated on Kasubi hill within Kampala, Uganda. This site is an active religious place in the Buganda kingdom to the Baganda and the Kabaka is the unquestioned symbol of spiritual, political and social state of the Buganda kingdom and also as a burial ground for the previous four Kabakas. Kasubi tombs is a place where the Kabaka and others in Buganda carry out important old Ganda rituals.

In 1882, Kabaka Muteesa I built a Royal palace to replace the one built by his father King Ssuna II in 1820 and this new site became a burial ground on his death in 1884. It has 31 royal tombs since the kingdom of Buganda was founded in the 13th Century.

The four Kabakas buried at the tombs include;

Muteesa I (1835-1884)

Basamula Mwanga II (1867-1902)

Daudi Chwa II (1896-1939)

Daudi Chwa (1896-1939)

Kasubi tombs became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2001, when it was described as ‘one of the most remarkable buildings using purely vegetal materials in the entire region of sub-Saharan Africa’. It is comprised of 26hactares, about 5kms Northwest of Kampala city centre and most of its land is farmed using traditional techniques.

The Kasubi tombs hill is divided into three main areas; the main tomb area located at the western end of the site, an area containing buildings and graveyards located behind the tombs and a large area on the Eastern side of the site used primarily for agricultural purposes.

The boarders of the ceremonial site were established in 1882on the present place Kasubi tombs also known as the Ssekabaka’s tombs and these boarders are still marked with bark cloth trees which have protected it from the residential development that are now surrounding the site on all sides.


Kasubi tombs
Kasubi tombs

Main features that make up the Kasubi tombs;

BujjaBukula, the gate house

Ndoga-obukaba, the house of the Royal drums

Muzibu Azaala-Mpanga

 BujjaBukula, the gate house

The entrance to the site is a beautifuly built gate house call the BujjaBukula and according to the Ganda tradition, the guards who control access to the site hide behind a see-through woven reed screen to keep watch around the clock in order to control access. This gatehouse leads to a small courtyard which contains a circular house in which the royal drums are kept called the Ndoga Obukaba.

Ndoga-obukaba, the house of the Royal drums

From this forecourt, one enters the main courtyard called Olugya in the local language, enclosed by ta reed fence and several houses built for the widows of the Kabakas and for other ritual purposes. The entrance into this courtyard is a striking experience as one immediately faces the main tomb building known as Muzibu-azaala Mpanga.

Muzibu Azaala Mpanga

It has a circumference of 31metres and 7.5metres high located astride the border of the courtyard on the adge opposite the entrance, it is constructed from wooden poles, reed wattle and duab and topped by a thick thatched dome with straw resting on 52 rings of palm fronds representing the traditional clans of the Buganda people. In 1938, Kabaka Mutesa II of Buganda introduced modern building materials like steel structure, concrete columns, bricks and largely concealed behind traditional materials.

Some clans and their responsibilities in construction of the site;

The Ngo clan (Leopard clan), its responsible in the internal decoration of the poles and not allowed to have any form of sexual contact during the course of the work.

The Ngeye clan responsible for the thatching, the widows of the Kabakas and pregnant women are not allowed on site during work as it is believed to cause leakage.

And this is the list of the Buganda clans.

  1. Abalangira
  2. Abalangira b’Essanje
  3. Ababbito b’Ekooki
  4. Ababiito b’Ekibulala
  5. Butiko
  6. Ffumbe
  7. Kiwere
  8. Mpindi
  9. Kibe
  10. Kkobe
  11. Kinyomo
  12. Kayozi
  13. Kasimba
  14. Lugave
  1. Mpologoma
  2. Emmamba Gabunga
  3. Mmamba Kakoboza
  4. Mpeewo
  5. Mbwa
  6. Mbogo
  7. Mutima Omuyanja
  8. Mutima Omusaggi
  9. Musu
  10. Mbuzi
  11. Njobe
  12. Nkerebwe
  13. Namunggona
  14. Njobe
  1. Nkula
  2. Ntalaganya
  3. Ngali
  4. Njaza
  5. Nakisige
  6. Nte
  7. Nseenene
  8. Nswaswa
  9. Ngeye
  10. Nyange
  11. Ndiga
  12. Ngo
  13. Ngabi Ensamba
  1. Ngabi Enyunga
  2. Ggonge
  3. Nkima
  4. Njovu
  5. Nsuma
  6. Nkejje
  7. Nnyonyi
  8. Nvubu
  9. Nsunu
  10. Nkusu
  11. Nvuma

 The abolition of the kingdom-ship in Uganda

A deep political crisis arose in Uganda in the early part of 1966, this event was surrounded by the crisis culminating in the Uganda Army attacking the palace of the king of Buganda, king Kabaka Fredrick Walugembe mutesa II in May 24th because the army was intent on capturing and killing the king.

Prior to the 1962 elections, the main political parties in pre-independence Uganda were the Democratic Party (DP) and the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC). The UPC itself was born of a coalition of smaller parties that came together under the leadership of Apollo Milton Obote. The Kabaka Yekka (KY) party was hurriedly formed shortly before the elections mainly as a political movement to advance the interests of the Buganda Kingdom in the emerging new nation of Uganda. A political alliance was formed between UPC and KY at the time of the 1962 elections to defeat DP.

After the elections, UPC and KY formed a coalition government and Obote, head of UPC became the Prime Minister. A year later, Obote nominated the Kabaka of Buganda to serve in the largely ceremonial position of President of Uganda and parliament concurred. This political marriage of convenience quickly soured however in 1964 when Obote championed a parliamentary bill providing for a referendum in the Buganda counties of Buyaga and Bugangazzi, which led to those counties seceding from Buganda and reverting to Bunyoro.

The relationship between UPC and KY was never smooth after that. Naturally, Obote feared that his support in the Buganda region was eroding. He ordered the security forces to react with maximum force to any perceived sign of opposition. This new policy was starkly demonstrated on November 10, 1964 following a minor domestic scuffle at Nakulabye on the outskirts of Kampala. Thinking it was an anti-government riot, the police went on a rampage that covered a radius of up to three miles from the scene of the original incident. Six people were shot dead by police including two school children. Three were shot point-blank inside their own homes. The incident was investigated by Chris Kantinti, a senior margistrate whose report concluded that the people had been the victims of a deliberate, violent and unprovoked attack by armed policemen. Despite the official government condemnation of the incident, the officer in charge of the operation was later promoted to regional commander for the Eastern region.

Meanwhile, some divisions had developed within the ranks of UPC. Some prominent party members accused Obote of having dictatorial tendencies, and of fostering tribal rivalries within UPC and the national army. Obote’s position as head of the UPC had become tenuous and it was apparent that he would face a formidable challenge at the party’s Delegates’ Conference due to be held before the next national elections in 1967. Obote was anxious to forestall any opposition. This led to the abolition of the kingdom ship in Uganda.

Restoration of the kingdom-ship in Uganda

In 1993 the kingdoms in Uganda were restored by the traditional institutions statute, but President Museveni blocked the restoration of the Ankole Kingship saying that the people of Ankole had to decide. Buganda kingdom was a protected site under Uganda law in 1972 and the land is registered in the name of the Kabaka on behalf of the kingdom.

The reigning kabaka is Ronald Mwenda Mutebi II from 31st July 1993 to present, he was born 13th April 1955.

 Kasubi tombs fire

On March 16 2010 at around 8:30pm local time, the Kasubi tombs was gutted by fire. The cause of the fire up to now, not yet known though the Buganda Kingdom promised to conduct independent investigations into the fire but up to date no formal report.

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