6 April 2014

Uganda: Kasubi Tombs On Course - Mayiga

Although the reconstruction of the torched Kasubi royal tombs missed its March 16, deadline, there is ample progress, with the perimeter wall all but complete.

For some time, the works were held up by cash constraints; but now the problem is not lack of money.

It is, rather, a desire to deliver meticulous work of the tombs of Buganda kings, which are a world heritage site. On September 20, 2013 when new Buganda Katikkiro (Prime Minister) Charles Peter Mayiga launched the fundraising drive for the reconstruction, he also set a March 16, 2014 deadline for completion of the works.

The deadline was to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the fire that razed the tombs. The deadline has not been met.

Work on the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, the main structure housing the tombs of four of Buganda's former kings, is still far from complete. The structure was torched on March 16, 2010.

According to Stephen Mpanga, a chief tour guide at the tombs, what has been done so far is just the first phase of the reconstruction works on Muzibu Azaala Mpanga. The second phase began last week on the roof, which, experts describe as a daunting task.

Omega Construction Company is the main contractor but, in accordance with tradition, the main contractor has to subcontract the third phase of the project to Wabulaakayole (a traditional thatcher).

The Wabulaakayole will supervise the 52 Baganda clans that will roof the structure. Each clan makes a ring traditionally known as ebizizi.

"The king's work is not rushed through; we are after beauty, that is why the reconstruction of his house can't be hurried because of certain deadlines," an attendant at the tombs, who declined to be named, said.

During his April 1 inspection of the works, Mayiga admitted that his March 16 deadline was ill-informed.

"I used to pressurize them but they advised me otherwise... because of technicalities, Muzibu Azaala Mpanga couldn't be completed within the time frame I set, because the engineers told me that rushing through the works may lead to mistakes," Mayiga said.

Perimeter wall:

The Shs 3bn budget for the restoration of the main structure is not part of the on-going Kasubi-Masiro Ggwanga mujje drive which has so far collected more than Shs 2.5bn. The Shs 3bn for the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga house was footed by the government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

According to the drive's chairperson Fred Kiyimba, construction of the perimeter wall around the 64-acre piece of land has been completed at half the cost. In 2010, a team constituted by former Katikkiro JB Walusimbi drew up a Shs 3bn budget for the wall.

"We hired three engineering firms to do the work because we wanted to beat the deadline [March 16] and also to work at a lesser cost," Kiyimba told The Observer.

More than Shs 1.37bn remained on the bank account and it is hoped it will be used for the completion of Bulange plaza that has stalled for more than three decades. Besides the perimeter wall, the collections have also been used to reconstruct the servants' quarters and some traditional houses.

"We are left with installation of solar power and that will cost us about $200,000 [Shs 500m] because we want this whole place to be well lit," Kiyimba said.

Mayiga announced that the kingdom also planned to construct boreholes in the site.

The kingdom is working towards the establishment of a cultural village at the tombs, with each clan allocated a plot of land to showcase its traditional roles in the kingdom.

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