Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gasoline on Fire

Sometimes we think we are clever enough not to do such a thing, yes?


Think of this. In the middle of the country is the Buganda kingdom. Proud, arrogant, with a long history. And, always fighting whatever the central government is.

Once the kingdom was banished. And all the others of course. But, that was not to be.

Sometimes culture is something you don’t fight with the strong arm of repression.

Kingdoms came back in the Museveni era. Because they just couldn’t be stopped, from my point of view, though Museveni is ‘credited’ with bringing them back.

Soon, he found himself at logger heads with the kingdom of Buganda. Again.

There is some [ahem] rubbish written in the constitution about the cultural leaders having no political power.
They don’t. On constitutional paper. In actual fact, Museveni has zealously courted the leader of Bunyoro, another powerful kingdom (incidentally, to counterbalance his troubles with the Kingdom of Buganda). And, the long standing wrangling of the central government with the Buganda kingdom has been one of the most prominent outstanding events of the last few years. The Buganda riots. The closure of Buganda Kingdoms Radio Buganda, which is still lingering. And on and on. The list is endless.

Yesternight, the Masiiro, (my apologies, Baganda, if I am getting that wrong!), the Kasubi Royal Tombs caught fire. New Vision puts the age of those revered grass thatched houses as close to 140 years. And, far as I could see, this is a part which had staid frozen in time.

Apparently, it is more than a tourist attraction.
It was, or is a shrine. And, from what I hear, some of the important cultural things were saved. And, that that was one of the reasons why the fire trucks were kept away.

Arson is suspected. Of course. Personally, I don’t think the venerable huts could have passed any fire inspection- BUT, what am I to offer such sacrilegious observations??? After all, they have survived 138 Years.

The government is suspected.

Early morning, into the palace grounds flow Baganda youths. All crying, something priceless has been lost.
Soldiers, and more soldiers too.
Did I mention that the days greetings was ‘Nga kitalo!’ Traditionally, it is for a death in the family, on the village. But, who says what. A week of mourning has been declared by the Katikiro, the Kingdom’s premier. To them, to the Baganda, it was that serious.

Now, here comes the President.
From a different tribal group. In conflict with the Baganda over various issues, a long running chronic ulcer that is seeping his support.

Someone advised him to visit the Kasubi Royal Tombs.


Or, maybe the Emperor decided to see the limits of his powers.

Crowds of Buganda youths on the way. Denying him entrance. Negotiations. And, he is allowed in. Up to an extent anyway.
There was a place where he was stopped, and shown, from afar, where the damage was. And, the Emperor was told to take himself off.

Crowds waiting outside. They block him. Yes, they did, singing the Buganda Anthem, a rallying call, an opposition rallying call.
Apparently, the Presidential Guards Brigade fired in the air to clear the way. And, some reports of injuries.

Funny thing is, there are so many soldiers on the ground it is like the whole place is under siege. If the President was coming to see loyal subjects….!

But, I am told that the King, the Kabaka may visit. Now, that public adulation is the kind one wants to watch, to understand this attachment to all things cultural. Why, people reverently lie down on the ground and beat their breasts to welcome him.

Well, his forefathers (apparently four of them are buried at these Royal Tombs) enjoyed a demi-god like status.


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