Fire at royal tomb prompts Uganda clash

Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:08am EDT
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By Elias Biryabarema and Justin Dralaze

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan security forces shot and wounded at least seven people Wednesday after fire destroyed a royal tomb, heightening tensions between the government and the powerful Bugandan kingdom.

A Reuters witness said the shooting happened when security forces were clearing Bugandan loyalists from the charred remains of the tombs where their royalty are buried, so President Yoweri Museveni could visit the site gutted by fire Tuesday night.

The cause of the blaze which destroyed the thatched-roof mausoleum and many centuries-old royal artifacts at the UNESCO World Heritage Site has not been identified, but some angry protesters suspected foul play.

"They have a wide conspiracy of destroying everything that marks there was a great kingdom called Buganda, and this is one of them," loyalist Jemba Erisa told Reuters at the tombs.

The Baganda are Uganda's largest tribe and were instrumental in Museveni coming to power 24 years ago. Museveni based his five-year military struggle in the kingdom's heartland and support by the Baganda has helped him stay in power.

But relations have been increasingly strained since Museveni last year blocked the reigning Bugandan monarch, or Kabaka, Ronald Mutebi, from visiting a part of his kingdom.

The standoff sparked two days of rioting in the capital Kampala that killed at least 15 people. Hundreds were arrested and the authorities also shut down the kingdom's radio station for allegedly fanning violence.

CAUSE UNKNOWN   Continued...

<p>A Ugandan soldier fires in the air to disperse civilians at the debris of the Kasubi Royal Tombs in the outskirts of Uganda's capital Kampala, March 17, 2010. REUTERS/James Akena</p>