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Six suspects who could have burned down Buganda’s royal tombs

By Omar Kalinge - Nnyago
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The past three weeks have been particularly stressful for everybody, not least to Uganda's President. The burning of Buganda's royal tombs, his forced entry into the desecrated compound full of emotionally charged people caused the shooting to death of three persons (by official count) by Museveni's guards. Uganda does not really look like a peaceful country.

Only recently, youth of the Inter Party Cooperation calling themselves YouthRight had petitioned the International criminal Court to investigate and charge president Museveni, the Inspector General of Police and Army Commander for the murder of over forty unarmed persons during the September 2009 riots. The president was quick to state his readiness to face the Hague. That he had to comment on the Inter Party Youth petition underscores the growing vulnerability of the Museveni regime. Now they know that it is no longer possible to enjoy impunity and international exemptions. Especially with Otunnu around, you can't ignore an international criminal petition. You just cant.

On Sunday March 1, 2010 the president addressed a press conference in which he failed to overcome his emotions. He spoke angrily, confessing that he was seething with anger… he was dying to lay his hands on anyone who would say in public that the government was involved in the royal tombs inferno. It was a powerful message from a head of state. Yet, it raised more questions than it answered. How can a head of state lay his hands on a suspect or even a proven criminal? Would such a person be taken to state house or to the police. Would s/he be subjected to a court of law or to a kangaroo court at state house?. In all fairness, president Museveni did a disfavor to himself by allowing himself to sound like he was intimidating the investigators of the royal tomb inferno. In an investigation, you don't rule out anything. You just don't.

When news broke that Tuesday evening that the royal tombs had been gutted, I quickly made a list of six possible culprits in no order of importance. First I suspected that a superstitious but perhaps drunken pipe smoker (omunywi we mindi ey'obulogo) decided to do it behind or too near to the grass thatched tomb and somehow lit the grass behind. As it has been clear from television pictures since the incident, superstitious pipe smoking and drunkenness has been the order of the day at the tomb grounds.

Secondly, in the same vein, I also suspected that some superstitious person, regardless of superstitious mindi (pipe) smoking could have done it on advise of a witch doctor. Witch doctors have become quite prominent during Museveni's past 24 years.

Third, I suspected that an armed rebel group would want to launch operations against the government in Buganda by capitalising on the present Buganda-Museveni tensions. Fourth, I thought that there could be elements in Museveni's regime, unknown to the president, who would like to dangerously escalate tensions between Museveni and Mengo so that a security crisis is fomented that could logically lead to the banning of the Buganda Kingdom.

Related to the above but slightly different, I thought, as a fifth possibility, that it could be disgruntled elements within the Museveni regime who, having lost all hope of democratically ever making it to the top, since the lifting of presidential term limits, did it. They could have done it, still, to escalate the tension, create widespread insecurity in the central region and subsequently 'advise' (trick, force) Museveni to flee the country in a kind of palace coup.

Sixth on my list was property developers. I thought that there were some capitalists interested in that strategic piece of land who calculated that once it was laid to waste, a suggestion would be made to the Buganda Kingdom to purchase it from them and develop it.

Regardless of who did it or the motive behind the action, even if it were a mere accident, or the work of a psycho or hobby arsonist, the royal tomb inferno has put Museveni's regime under tremendous pressure. Judging from the president's body language during the Sunday press conference, he may need more professional help to cope, and to get government from the now perpetually defensive position it has been boxed into.

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