Kabaka Tombs are situated on Kasubi hill in the Buganda kingdom which is located in the central region of Uganda in Kampala city. The Kabaka tombs also known as Kasubi tombs are the burial sites or grounds for the previous four Kabakas (kings) of Buganda and other royal family members which makes it an important religious, historical and cultural place in the Buganda kingdom. Kasubi tombs are the living testimony of the Ganda traditions where the Kabaka and his representatives frequently carry out important rituals that are related to the Ganda culture. The Kabaka tombs were added on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage list in 2001 which makes it an important site for the Buganda Kingdom and Uganda.
Location of Kabaka Tombs
Kabaka tombs are located within Kampala 5km from Kampala town center, on Kampala-Hoima road. When you are coming from Kampala City center you pass by Makerere University, drive down to Nakulabye and at Nakulabye junction, you turn right on the Hoima road and then drive 1km up and turn left on Masiro road. You will see the entrance which is marked by a thatched hut which welcomes you to Kasubi tombs and in the northwest shores of Lake Victoria.
History and Culture of the Buganda Kingdom
The Baganda people belong to the Bantu and their first Kabaka was Kato Kintu Kakulukuku who adopted the name Kintu so as to associate himself with the father of all people because Kintu was the name of the first person on earth in Buganda. Kintu had one wife Nambi Nantutululu and Kintu is said not to have died but to have disappeared into the forest at Magonga.
Baganda Kabaka’s have always built their palaces on hills where every new king has a right to choose a hill on which to build his palace and also rename it. This was to control the major roads to the palace so as to find easy ways to escape in case of a rebellion and when the Kabaka’s died the traditional practice was to bury each Kabaka at a separate site to establish a royal shrine to house his jaw bone which was believed to contain his spirit at another site. At Kasubi tombs there is an area behind a barkcloth curtain known as Kibira or forest where secret ceremonies are performed, the area where the real Kabaka tombs are built, in front of the curtain there are raised platforms corresponding to the position of each Kabaka’s tomb. Muteesa 1 was the first Kabaka to be buried at Kasubi and he was the 35th king in the Buganda kingdom.
The 4 Kabaka’s of Buganda at Kasubi tombs
- Kabaka Muteesa 1: Kabaka Muteesa 1 was a son of Kabaka Suuna who married 148 women, had 2000 concubines, 18000 maiden servants; Kabaka Suuna had ascended the throne in 1810 and died in 1852. Kabaka Suuna was succeeded by his son Kabaka Muteesa 1 who had 84 wives, 1000 concubines, and 17000 maiden servants. Kabaka Muteesa 1 was born around 1835 and crowned in 1856 and established his palace at Kasubi tombs in 1882. Kabaka Muteesa 1 was the first Kabaka to be influenced by foreign cultures during the time of the exploration of Africa. The Arab traders were his first contact in the western world, the Arab traders circumnavigated African continent searching for slaves whom they bartered for beads and guns which disappointed Muteesa and other African leaders and to find his way out of this mode of trade he got into contact with the European missionary explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1875 who was going around Africa searching for the source of the Nile and other things. After Henry Morton Stanley’s contact with Muteesa, he got contact with the British who helped him to take away the Arab middlemen. Kabaka Muteesa 1 was a powerful king who was afraid of rebellions and due to that, he imprisoned all his brothers in a trench where many of them died. Muteesa 1 died is 1884 and his body was buried as a whole at his new palace in Kasubi because he had ordered that his jaw bone should not be removed from his body which led to the breaking of the two Buganda traditions of being buried whole and not being buried at a separate hill site.
- Kabaka Mwanga 11: Kabaka Mwanga 11 was born to Kabaka Muteesa 1 and succeeded his father in 1884 and was the last monarch of an independent Buganda. He launched a countrywide search for the Christians and dissuaded the pages who were very actively involved in religious instruction. Kabaka Mwanga created the man-made Kabakas Lake and when the religious wars between Christianity and Islam broke up in 1886 leading to their death through burning, he ran away from the kingship and only came back after the wars in 1889 and ruled up to 1897. Kabaka Mwanga 11 joined the resistance struggle against the British colonial forces in 1897 with Kabalega who was the king of the Bunyoro Kitara kingdom but were defeated and captured on the 9th of April 1899. They both later went into exile in Seychelles Island where Mwanga 11 died in 1903. His body was brought back for burial in 1910 and buried at Kasubi alongside his father who also broke the tradition of burying the Kabaka’s at different sites. However, this made Kasubi an important burial site for the Kabaka’s.
- Kabaka Daudi Chwa 11: Kabaka Daudi Chwa 11 was born to Kabaka Mwanga 11 and took over the throne when he was only one year old and ruled from 1898 to 1939. He was enthroned 34th king of Buganda aged only four years after his father Mwanga had been forced out of his kingdom and into exile in the Seychelles Island. Kabaka Daudi Chwa 11 was the first reigning king of Buganda to openly declare himself as a practicing Christian and the first king to have his wedding solemnize. Kabaka Daudi Chwa11 was referred to as the king without authority because he was directly surrounded by imperial forces and the decisions of the kingdom were made by the 3 regents including 1 catholic and 2 protestant chiefs who were appointed at his enthronement because he was too young to make decisions until he attained maturity at the age of 18 years. It is said that Kabaka Chwa11 had a miserable kingship which led to his untimely death in 1939 and was also buried at Kasubi tombs with his two predecessors which strengthened the cultural value of Kasubi tombs.
- Kabaka Muteesa 11: Kabaka Muteesa 11 was Kabaka Daudi Chwa’s son who ruled from 1939 to 1969. Kabaka Muteesa 11 took over power when he was 15 years of age and was still a student at Buddo. He ruled the kingdom with the help of regents who were martin Luther Nsibirwa the prime minister of the kingdom, Lawuli Kiwanuka the judge and Sserwano Woofunira Kkulubya. Kabaka Muteesa 11 later went for studies in the United Kingdom and left the kingdom in the hands of the regents and came back to take over leadership in 1949. During his rule, he had a lot of interference from the Europeans who wanted him to sign the Buganda agreement in which he did not attend and the same agreement was made during Kabaka Chwa’s rule and never signed too. The Buganda agreement did not go well with the governor sir Andrew Cohen which later led to the exile of Muteesa 11 in England like his grandfather Mwanga 11 in 1953. Kabaka Muteesa 11 was enthroned as the 35th king of Buganda in 1942 where after there was a demonstrated due to lack of cooperation with the colonial administrators. Due to this demonstration, he was exiled twice into the United Kingdom where he hoped that they were going to model him into a puppet king that they wanted him to be yet in vain. Also during his reign, there were many uprisings that started around Africa for the demand for independence from the European colonial rulers which led to the emergence of the political parties in Uganda. When Uganda attained independence from the British on 9th October 1962 Kabaka Muteesa 11 became the constitutional president of Uganda. Due to his position tension soon developed between him and the prime minister Apollo Milton Obote which culminated in the storming of the Kabaka’s palace in May 1966. In 1967 Obote obligated the 1962 federal constitution and introduced a republican constitution that abolished kingdoms of Uganda because they were perceived as a threat to the national interest with himself as president. His palace was attacked by the government troops led by Idi Amin which forced Muteesa 11 into exile in England which brought the kingdom into an early and, he died in 1969 in London and his remains were brought and buried at Kasubi tombs in 1971. His son Sabassaja Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Kimera Mutebi 11 returned from exile and was crowned in 1993 and his coronation has helped to accelerate a cultural revival amongst the Buganda kingdom and many of whom it had little awareness of Ganda traditions.
Buganda Kingdom has other 6 burial sites including:
- Wamala king tombs which are burial sites of Kabaka Suuna 11 who had 148 wives and 218 children. He reigned from 1836 to 1856 and was the last king to be buried in his own palace and the last to have his jaw bone removed after his death. The tombs are located at Wamunyenye, Kyadondo county 13km along Kampala- Hoima road.
- Nnamasole tombs which house the body of Nnamasole Kanyange the mother of Ssekabaka Suuna 11 who is buried at Wamala tombs, the tombs contain special drums which are used as a ritual to summon Kabaka Suuna’s spirit. The tombs are located at Kagoma, Kyadondo County 12km along Kampala- Bombo road.
- Baagalayaze Nnamasole tombs, the site that houses Nnamasole Baagalayaze tomb the mother of Kabaka Mwanga 11 who was known for her generosity and died in 1916. The tomb is a cultural center to celebrate the people, culture and the history of Buganda through cultural performances inform of storytelling, music, dance, drama, art and craft among others. It’s located in Mpererwe, Busiro County 15km along Kampala- Gayaza road.
Naggalabi Coronation site on Buddo Hill
This is a site where the Kabaka’s have been crowned for the past 700 years, it is said in the Buganda kingdom that Kintu who was the first Kabaka killed his brother Bemba and then declared himself the king in the 13th century. Buddo hill is the site where the coronation of the present king Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi 11 took place on the 31st of July 1993. Buddo hill site is located in Nagalabi, Busiro County 11km along Kampala- Masaka road and has a great panoramic view of the country.
Kabaka tombs are very important to the Buganda kingdom and the entire country because it’s a royal shrine where the four Buganda kings were buried and other members of the royal family including their mothers, grandmothers, princes, and princesses hence acting as the living testimony of the Ganda traditions which attracts both religious and cultural tourists.
“Travel on a Uganda Safaris tour that is embedded in the Cultural Safaris to discover the truth and heritage of the Buganda Kingdom and the famous Kabaka’s Tombs / Kasubi Tombs.”