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Onlookers Become Riotous

UNESCO World Heritage site burns down in Kampala

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Mar 17, 2010

The Kasubi Tombs, where several of the late Kings of Buganda are laid to rest and which was a focal point for tourists and the kingdom’s subjects for visits, burned down last night.

The Kampala fire brigade, while on site soon after the alarm was raised, was helpless as the grass thatched huge domes over the graves and cultural sites burned to ashes, fueled by days of intense heat, which must have dried out the thatch and strong winds, which whipped the flames into a frenzy.

Kasubi Tombs, now nearly 130 years old, has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, and has always had a special place in the itineraries for tourists as it allowed an insight into the age-old customs of the kingdom. Four kings are buried at Kasubi and cultural paraphernalia and mementos were also on display and are feared burned, too, a big loss of irreplaceable items for Uganda as a whole and especially the Buganda kingdom.
There are other similar tombs within the kingdom of Buganda, like the Wamala Tombs, but they are not as near to the city nor as well maintained as the showpiece Kasubi site.

The fire reportedly broke out just before 9:00 pm on Tuesday night, and there are further reports that the crowd of onlookers became riotous when the fire brigade could not save the huge huts and began pelting their vehicles with stones, prompting riot police to be deployed.

No immediate cause for the fire could be given by police and fire brigade sources when making the inquiry last night, but fire investigators are expected on site this morning to commence their investigation. It could also not be established if, or to what value, the site was insured, although no monetary compensation could ever now bring back the many burned artefacts of the kingdom’s history, which were stored and on display at the Kasubi Tombs. A sad day for Uganda tourism, and a sad day for the Buganda Kingdom.

UNESCO World Heritage site burns down in Kampala
Muzibu Azaala Mpanga / Image via

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