Road to Reconciliation: a guide to Kampala, Uganda

Abiti Nelson (ITP 2013, Uganda), National Museum Uganda

As you may have read in my previous blogs this year myself and colleagues at Uganda National Museum are working in collaboration with ITP fellows Hadeer Belal (Coptic Museum, Egypt) and Kizili Chole (Kitale Museum, Kenya) through the Collaborative Award project: Road to Reconciliation. We are also very excited to welcome Shadia Abdrabo Abdelwahab Abdalla to group. Shadia joined the ITP network in 2006 and is from Atrbara Museum, Sudan.

On 4th February I will be welcoming the group and John Giblin from the British Museum to Kampala, Uganda for a three day workshop and meeting. We will be working with community members to start preparations on the Road to Reconciliation community exhibition. I am excited that we are going to implement the workshop with ITP fellows.

Hadeer and Kizili will be facilitating the workshop on the community exhibition the first stages of discussion on planning, display and future involvement of the community.

Below I have given Hadeer, Kizili and Shadia a taste of what they can expect from Kampala, Uganda…

Firstly, Uganda National Museum is the oldest museum in East Africa, established in 1902 and opened officially in 1908 with ethnographic materials. The Museum is located at Kitante hill, 5 km away from the city Centre and is an architectural masterpiece, designed by German architect Ernest May in 1948. The building was completed in 1954 to accommodate the national museum. Today the museum holds all kinds of events including weekend festivals and parties for Kampala residents.

Also within Kampala is the Bulange (Buganda Parliament). This is the first modern parliament in East Africa. It serves as the main administrative seat in Buganda and is where the Lukiiko (Buganda Parliament) seats. It houses the offices of the Kabaka, Nnaabagereka (Queen), the Katikkiro (Prime Minister) and offices of other high-ranking officials in the Kingdom. The Buganda Lukiiko (Parliament) sits eight times in a year but the Kabaka attends only once to close the previous session and to open the new session.

In the beginning, the Buganda Parliament convened inside one of the Kabaka’s palaces and conducted business under the shade of one or more trees. Later, grass-thatched buildings served as the parliament buildings. Around the beginning of the 20th century, Prime Minister of Buganda, Apollo Kaggwa, contracted an Indian, Alidina Visram, to build a parliament building using bricks. As the kingdom’s government grew in size, the need for a large-enough meeting hall forced the construction of the Bulange outside the King’s Palace for the first time.

While in exile in Scotland in 1953, Ssekabaka Muteesa II saw and admired the construction drawings of a building. He brought those drawings with him on his return from exile in 1955. He directed that the new Bulange be constructed according to those drawings. Construction began in 1955 and was completed in 1958 at a cost of 5 million shillings, fully funded by the Government of Buganda. It is located on Namirembe Hill close to Namirembe Hospital, about 1 mile (1.6 km) northwest of the main gate of Mengo Palace in Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city.


Situated 12 kilometers away from Kampala capital city on Kasubi hill on Kampala – Hoima Road is the Kasubi Tombs, a huge thatched structure housing the mausoleums of the four former kings of Buganda kingdom locally known as Muzibu Azaala Mpanga. On the eve of 16th March 2010, Kasubi Tombs was burnt, the reconstruction is ongoing and the traditional artisan are now rethatching the roof of Muzibu Azaala Mpanga.

Traditionally when the Buganda king died, he would be buried at a separate site and establish it as a Royal Shrine to house his jaw bone which was believed to contain his spirit. However at Kasubi mausoleum they are four former kings. The first was Mutesa I, who was buried at his Kasubi Palace. The second was Mwanga II who ruled between 1867 and 1903, his reign was characterized by resistance struggle against the British colonial rule. Him and his counterpart Kabalega the king of Bunyoro were defeated and exiled to Seychelles Island. Mutesa died in exile and his body was brought back and buried at Kasubi, which broke the old tradition of burying kings at different sites. Thus making Kasubi an important burial site of the kabaka’s of Buganda. Daudi Chwa II, a successor of Mwanga was also buried here in 1939 which strengthened the ritual value of the site. The fourth king buried at the site was Mutesa II, a son of Daudi Chwa II. He also died in exile in London in 1969 and his remains were brought back and buried at Kasubi Tombs in 1971.

We shall be grateful to receive you all and look forward to sharing more about our projects!