The shelters that served as hideouts for Sir Edward Mutesa II in Sembabule district are nonexistent 56 years after he used them to escape the wrath of the Uganda army after the attack on his Palace.
Mutesa, then the Kabaka of Buganda, arrived in Rugushulu sub-county, Mawogola county in present-day Sembabule district on May 27, 1966, following a fallout with the then Prime Minister of Uganda Apollo Milton Obote, on whose orders the army hit his palace; in an expedition that has since been referred to as the Buganda Crisis.
The Kabaka who was wanted by the government of the day, and had a bounty of 12,500 British pounds over his head, hid in the area for 21-days as he plotted his escape to exile. During the time, he stayed at the home of area resident Angelina Nabakooza, as his men silently plotted to sneak him out of the country.
Mutesa spent the daytime hiding in a nearby shrub where he would be served meals, and only entered the house at night when there is less likelihood of him being noticed by people who could report him to the authorities.
Nabakooza, who the Buganda Kingdom decorated a Heroine in 2009, was lowered into her final resting place on Monday. But as her memory fades, so are the landmarks where she hid and fed the Kabaka.
Berna Namuwonge, the third of Nabakooza’s nine Children says the landmarks started disappearing in the 70s’ after the family shifted to another location in Nsambya village, Lwentale Parish. The family had settled about 23 miles from the exact place where Kabaka Mutesa II was hidden.
She says that what used to be their home is currently occupied by other people who acquired it from her siblings and that the new settlers didn’t spare anything for that memory because they did not know the historical attachment to it. She narrates that the family initially settled in an isolated place, which made them susceptible to wild animals and that when they eventually relocated, they didn’t find justification for going back to preserve the landmarks whose significance they weren’t certain of at the time.
To her recollection, Namuwonge narrates that prior to the 1966 raid on the Mengo palace, the Kabaka used to visit their area and participated in the hunting of different species of wild animals for meat and skins. She adds that given the long period when the kingdoms were in abeyance, the family did not find any justification for preserving the monuments that would be of great precious value later.
Fatuma Namugula, the Mawogola County representative to the Buganda Lukiiko suspects that the shrub where Kabaka Mutesa hid was cleared and replaced with a coffee plantation.
“We are told it is either a coffee plantation or enclosed in someone’s ranch,” she says. She is however optimistic that the current occupants may volunteer and point to the exact spot if they are engaged to appreciate the significance of the places to the kingdom. Traditionally, a place where the Kabaka stays for some time is preserved as a palace, which the reigning Kabaka and his successors can revisit anytime they wish.
Florence Namale, who was aged 11 at the time her mother hid the Kabaka, says that the only feature she can remember about the scene of their initial home was a round-shaped rock that created a visible landscape behind their kitchen. She, however, hastens to add that the place was fragmented into plots which gives her a hard time locating where their house was originally situated.
According to her, the events about Kabaka Mutesa II hiding in Mawogola is a story largely described by word of mouth, and its sequential facts risk being adulterated after the death of Nabakooza; who was the last surviving person amongst the people who conspired to hide the Kabaka.
Namale prefers that the historical landmarks be substituted for the current site of their home in Nsambya village, where Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II constructed a new house for their mother in 2009. In the sideways of the new house stands a semi-permanent structure that was Nabakooza’s home until Kabaka Mutebi II intervened.
Meanwhile, Namale prefers that on top of remodelling the houses to improve their outlook, the Kingdom could consider using the home to set up a community-based project, for purposes of preserving the legacy of the late Nabakooza.
Buganda Kingdom Information Minister Noah Kiyimba says that the Ministry of Tourism and Heritage will work out a holistic program to document the history of all the related monumental sites as well as reclaim them for promoting tourism in the Kingdom.