Thursday, March 18, 2010

Suspicion Of Arson At Royal Tombs Fuels Deadly Clashes In Uganda

KIGALI, Rwanda - Riots erupted at venerated burial grounds in Uganda on Wednesday, and witnesses said that police officers shot and killed three protesters. The violence was a sign of continuing troubles between the Ugandan government and members of the Buganda traditional kingdom who want more local power.

The trouble started on Tuesday night in Uganda's capital, Kampala, when a suspicious fire engulfed the Kasubi tombs, built in 1882 and later converted into a royal burial ground for the Buganda kingdom. The tombs are a World Heritage site, and according to Unesco, the United Nations agency that bestows the recognition, they are "a masterpiece of human creativity" and "the most active religious place in the kingdom."

By Wednesday evening, hundreds of members of the Buganda community were still streaming toward the remains of the tombs, and kingdom officials called for a week of mourning.
"People are camped there, they lit fires, they keep on singing the kingdom's anthem," said Peter Myiga, a spokesman for the kingdom. "But there is tension that you can notice."

Those tensions exploded earlier on Wednesday when Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, visited the scene of the fire and protesters tried to prevent him from approaching the tombs. The main tomb, made of wood, thatch, reed and wattle, had burned to the ground, and supporters of the Buganda king, whose title is the kabaka, blamed arson. Some supporters accused the government of setting the fire.

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