By Isaac Mutema
A few months after Mengo lost its spiritual tree to one of the constructions of the country’s express modern highways, the institution of Buganda Kingdom now stands faced with losing an equally highly regarded piece of culture.
The spiritual tree belonged to the Lugave (Pangolin) clan one of the fifty-two clans making up Buganda kingdom. It was found in Katende village along Kampala- Masaka highway.
It all started with the Works and Transport ministry through the roads agency, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), applying to the Lugave clan for permission to fell the tree.
UNRA was seeking to use the land holding the tree to construct a section of the Kampala – Mpigi Express Highway. The clan leaders sneered at UNRA’s request. They elected instead to put the preservation of culture above Infrastructure development.
Alternatively, the clan leaders were demanding compensation in the terms of UGX500m before they could yield to UNRA’s demands.
When the push had come to the shove, the clan bosses escalated the matters to the courts of law. They were still insisting on being paid the massive compensation before they could permit UNRA to use where the tree was standing.
After hearing from the clan and UNRA, the presiding judge slashed what the complainants were seeking to a paltry UGX4.6m award. The judge noted that infrastructure development was too important a matter to be bogged down by the issues of culture.
The judicial officer hence permitted UNRA to proceed and raze down the tree. The roads agency quickly rolled out the bulldozer which uprooted the tree as per the judge’s orders.
Much the same, the clan leaders took their issues to the Works and Transport Minister, Gen Edward Katumba for redress. But Katumba told them off. The islander from Ssese clarified to the visitors that he lacked the powers to tinker with the court processes.
Katumba then counselled the grumbling clan members to either resign to the court judgement or else take their misgivings regarding the same, to the next court.
We can’t tell whether the Lugave people of Buganda kingdom, for that matter, appealed. What we now know is that the kingdom of Buganda is currently faced with yet another dilemma to do with issues of culture.
The kingdom is in a dilemma since one of its treasured spiritual shrines is under encirclement. The shrine belongs to Buganda’s spirit known as Namboole.
Namboole stadium derived the original name from the said spirit. The shrine is located on the Northern side of Namboole stadium overlooking the northern gate of the stadium.
The facility is constructed out of mud and wattle and roofed with spear grass. At the site is an emblem and flag of Buganda with an inscription reading ‘Embuga Y’omusangwa gwa Buganda Namboole.’ The same translates to,’ The shrine of Buganda’s spirit Namboole,’ in the English language.
Only recently we shared an operation being undertaken by the military to reclaim all the land belonging to the Namboole national stadium. The government is in the process of refurbishing the stadium after years of neglect.
Such is the stadium’s poor state currently that it has almost been condemned by CAF and FIFA. What the above means is that the stadium can neither hold soccer matches affiliated with CAF nor those organized by FIFA.
In the previous write-up, we made known some of the encroachers who have since been sealed off by the military ahead of the fixing of the sports facility.
The prominent ones include the police ghetto which was sealed off ahead of chasing away the inhabitants. The police officers who erected the ghetto are currently caged there inside like animals.
It is the same military masons who have since sealed off the said shrine belonging to Buganda’s Namboole spirit. Legend has it that Namboole used to, and still, ‘stop’ moving trains whilst crossing the railway lines on the way from its shrine and back.
The locomotives, according to this legend, would remain in a motionless state during these intriguing episodes until after the spirit had crossed.
How the military men managed to seal off the shrine without the spirit dealing with them, is as intriguing as the spirit itself.
For the moment, the custodian of the shrine is still going about his duties. We can’t tell whether the government is going to allow Mengo or not, to continue using the land now that it is sealed.