Uganda security forces opened fire
to quell unrest that left at least two people dead amid allegations that
arsonists set fire to UN-listed royal tombs near Kampala.
The fire destroyed much of the 128-year-old
tombs which are revered by the Baganda people, one of Uganda’s main tribes centred
in Kampala and in the south of the country.
It triggered skirmishes between
angry young supporters of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, traditional ruler of the
Buganda, and anti-riot police.
Trouble came to a head when protesters
tried to prevent Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni from visiting the
fire-ravaged site just south of Kampala.
The demonstrators booed Museveni,
brandished placards denouncing his regime and set up barricades as his motorcade
was approaching the tombs.
Fearing more violence, security
forces opened fire, but said they only shot into the air and not at the crowds,
before the president’s motorcade arrived.
“There was a group that
confronted security at the scene before the arrival of the president. They were
violent, when they confronted us we shot in the air to disperse them,”
Ugandan Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said.
Lieutenant Colonel Felix Kulayigye
said two of the protestors were shot dead and five others injured but did not
say who was responsible for the deaths.
Despite the protests Museveni
continued to the site, his security beefed up by four light armoured vehicles
and hundreds of soldiers riding on picks ups. “I am suspicious. This could
be arson,” Museveni told the tomb caretakers as he toured the charred
“The problem is the place has
been tampered with. … but we are going to investigate and get to the
After the president left the scene,
thousands of Bagandan supporters marched into the tombs accusing the government
of torching the site.