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Culture - Arts

Uganda tombs to be reconstructed

Inside view of the Great hut (Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga) showing the structural rings and the long wooded poles wrapped in bark cloth. The Buganda Kabakas are buried behind the long curtain.

© Thierry Joffroy/Unesco
afrol News, 13 April
- An expert group has concluded that it is "feasible" to reconstruct the Tombs of Buganda Kings, Uganda's only World Heritage List site, lost to fire last month. The Ugandan government has secured UNESCO assistance for the works.

The UN's cultural agency UNESCO, which also administers the World Heritage List, today announced it would help Ugandan authorities to mobilise resources to restore the Tombs of Buganda Kings. The World Heritage List site was almost totally destructed in a fire on 16 March.

The Ugandan government shortly after the fire had requested a UNESCO mission of experts to evaluate whether the Buganda Tombs could be rebuilt. The expert group now has concluded that reconstruction "is feasible".

But destruction was almost complete. Only the walls and some of the frame of the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, the building that housed the four royal tombs, still stand, and they have been seriously weakened, the experts found. Situated on the Kasubi Hill, five kilometres from the centre of Uganda's capital Kampala, the building was thatched with dry grass and wood which burned in the fire.

"I am glad to report that an expert mission confirms the feasibility of this unique World Heritage site's reconstruction," UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement today. "UNESCO will do everyth

Royal Buganda tombs: Great hut seen from the main courtyard (Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga)

© Sébastien Moriset/Unesco
ing in its power to help the Ugandan authorities mobilise the resources needed to bring this site back to life and to ensure its future safeguarding. We are already activating emergency funds for this purpose," she added.

The Tombs of Buganda Kings were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001 when they were recognised as a masterpiece of human creativity, bearing eloquent witness to the living cultural traditions of the Baganda people, Uganda's largest ethnic group. The site has been an important centre of religious activity for the Baganda since it was established at the end of the 19th century.

"The know-how and material resources used in building the original edifice in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are still readily available locally," said Lazare Eloundou, Chief of the Africa Unit at UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, who led the mission.

"The main priority even before reconstruction has to be the building of temporary shelters for the royal tombs to allow ritual ceremonies and practices to be maintained and the collection of all available docume

Inside view of the Great hut (Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga) of Buganda's royal tombs, showing the structural rings and the long wooded poles wrapped in bark cloth

© Thierry Joffroy/Unesco
ntary data about the property," he added.

The mission's report is to be examined by the World Heritage Committee during its next session in Brazil in July and August. The committee is expected to mobilise international support for the reconstruction and the expert mission urged Ugandan authorities to wait for international input, both material and technical, before they start rebuilding the property.

Two people were killed during protests sparked by anger at the destruction a day after the fire, the cause of which remains unclear.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered a full investigation into the fire. His government has been ordered to evaluate means of reconstructing the site, whose fascinating architecture, palace design and history have also made the royal tombs the major tourist attraction in the Kampala region.

The current Kabaka (king) of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, has also called for the reconstruction on the tombs. Kabaka Mutebi II still is heading religious ceremonies at the site, which is considered key to Baganda history and culture.

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