3 shot dead in Uganda riots after overnight fire destroys tombs of traditional kings

By Godfrey Olukya, AP
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

3 dead in Uganda riots after tombs set alight

KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan security forces fatally shot three people in the capital Wednesday during clashes with rioters angry after the tombs of five traditional kings were destroyed overnight by fire, a tribal government official said.

Lubega Segona, minister of information for the Buganda kingdom, said three people were killed and several wounded by members of the presidential guard. He said the guards shot at angry members of the traditional kingdom who had tried to stop Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni from visiting the tombs.

“Those killed were among a crowd which was stopping the guards to enter where the tombs are located,” Segona said. “The guards responded by opening fire and killing three people and injuring several.”

Police Inspector General Kale Kaihura condemned the shootings and said police would investigate.

“I have instructed the criminal investigation department director to investigate all those who shot at people,” he said. “All those involved will be arrested and punished.”

In 1993, Museveni restored Uganda’s traditional kingdoms, which his predecessor had banned in 1967. But Museveni has been adamant that kings restrict themselves to cultural duties and keep out of politics.

Buganda’s leader, King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, declared five days of mourning after the building housing the kings’ tombs was destroyed by fire early Tuesday.

Museveni told the crowd that the government will help pay for the tombs’ reconstruction. Earlier Wednesday, angry protesters attacked policemen, firefighters and soldiers who attempted to approach the tombs.

One rioter said he suspected the government set fire to the tombs, a charge that a police spokeswoman denied.

“We know that the relationship between the central government and Buganda kingdom is not good,” said George Senvuma said, who is a member of the kingdom. “There is a possibility that government operatives set fire on the tombs.”

Police spokeswoman Judith Nanbakooba said hundreds of policemen were sent to the scene but could not approach the tombs for fear of being attacked.

“Those people do not want to see anyone in police or army uniform,” she said. “They have been beating up policemen and army men sent to keep law and order since last night. They even stopped firefighters from reaching the burning tombs. Only policemen in plainclothes can access the place.”

In September, riots broke out in Kampala when security agents clashed with Buganda members, leaving more than 20 protesters dead. The government had prevented a representative of the Buganda king from traveling to a region near the capital on “security grounds.” Many saw it as an insult to the king.

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