, KAMPALA, Mar 17 – Fire ravaged the UN-listed Kasubi tombs in Uganda and the army and police deployed across Kampala on Wednesday after protests by youths who claimed it was arson.
Anti-riot units battled during the night to disperse young supporters of the Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, traditional ruler of the Baganda, one of Uganda\’s main tribes.
The fire on Tuesday night destroyed much of the 128-year-old tombs just south of Kampala where four Baganda kings are buried.
The tombs in straw-thatched buildings are revered by the Baganda people and are a major tourist attraction on the World Heritage List drawn up by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
President Yoweri Museveni is to inspect the damage on Wednesday, a source at his office said.
"When the fire broke out, police were called in and got there in time but the fire brigade was obstructed by a hostile crowd, three trucks were damaged and a fireman injured," Uganda\’s police chief, Major General Kale Kayihura told AFP.
"Faced with this hostility and in an effort to stop the fire from destroying the tombs, the officer fired some shots in the air to disperse the crowd but no one was hurt," he added.
Kayihura said the cause of the fire was still being investigated.
Peter Mayiga, a spokesman for the Buganda Kingdom, whose people are concentrated in the south of Uganda and Kampala, described the fire as "an attack on Buganda".
Last year an attempt by the authorities to stop the Baganda king from visiting an area near Kampala sparked running battles in the streets of the capital. Police fired tear gas and live ammunition.
"This fire is very strange given what we (the Baganda) have been going through," Mayiga said without giving details.
Kayihura, reacting to Mayiga\’s comments, said: "That is absolute falsehood. The government cannot be responsible for this fire."
The tombs were declared a World Heritage Site in 2001. As a spiritual symbol for the Baganda people, many go to the tombs for ritual ceremonies.
Uganda has two other listed sites, the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Ruwenzori Mountains National Park.