trueBy Ellady Muyambi
I am compelled to write this after reading an article published in one newspaper of November 7-8, 2014 titled “Ankole: Katatumba missed the point on Tourism Board” by James Tumusiime in which he was reacting to the earlier article published by Dr George William Katatumba, the Enganzi of Ankole and Chairman of Nkore Cultural Trust (NCT).
Although Tumusiime James claims in his article that the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is interested in renovating the Mugaba Palace as well as other tourism assets in the Greater Ankole, the manner in which this is being spearheaded leaves unanswered questions. For instance, the Nkore Cultural Trust (NCT) of which I am a member has written several letters to the Government of the Republic of Uganda through the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage (MTWH) to be allowed to renovate Mugaba Palace and none of the letters has ever been responded to by the Government.
I personally, have ever delivered two letters to the Ministry written by NCT on the subject matter of Mugaba Palace. At one time, I, together with Dr George William Katatumba met the Commissioner for Museums, Monuments and Antiquities, Madam Rose Mwanja on the same subject and she assured us that she would follow up with the Minister and thereafter respond to NCT’s letters. But up to present, there has been no communication.
It is therefore very suspicious to hear that the same government wants to renovate Mugaba Palace through a private entity named the Greater Ankole Tourism Network (GANTONE) headed by private entrepreneurs such as James. Tumusiime. Of the two entities (GANTONE and NCT), which one is better positioned to renovate Mugaba Palace? Why is the government refusing to renovate Mugaba Palace in partnership with NCT but instead prefer partnering with GANTONE which is not even a registered entity and yet NCT is a historical legal entity and patroned by Charles Aryija Rwebishengye ii, the Ankole Kingdom Crown Prince?
I personally attended the launch of GANTONE at Igongo Cultural Centre and Country Hotel but I was shocked by the momentum and the interest of its leaders in Ankole’s historical assets such as Mugaba Palace. One would be right to ponder a question, where was UTB when Mugaba Palace was being vandalized? Why has UTB picked much interest at this point in time when NCT has requested to be allowed to renovate Mugaba Palace? Why is UTB not officially involving the leadership of NCT but rather prefer to involve some members of NCT through underground and undercover means?
What James Tumusiime and his likes should know is that, NCT is now a strong entity which should not be overlooked. NCT’s youth wing “the Engabo Z’Ankole) of which a’m the Interim Patron is critically following the developments and will therefore not sit back and watch members who have personal interests take Mugaba Palace for personal gains instead of developing it as a public good for public interests.
For those who may not be aware, Mugaba Palace commonly known as Omugabe’s Palace is a historic building and an important heritage for the people of Ankole located in Kamukuzi in Mbarara district. The Palace was constructed around the early19th century and since then was the living place for the Kings (Abagabe) of Ankole Kingdom. Mugaba Palace has intrinsic values that are connected with the people of Ankole.
According to Churchill, Winston, "we shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us." Mugabe palace defines the historic period’s social, stylistic, cultural, and economic heritage for the Ankole people. Mugaba Palace must be preserved because of the character it brings to neighborhoods. The palace is extremely beautiful and brings a certain charm to the neighborhoods.
Also, as Shankland, Graeme puts it "a country without the past has the emptiness of a barren continent; and a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory." The Mugaba Palace therefore serves as a reminder of the past and this helps the people of Ankole to understand what they have gone through, what happened in the past and how things could possibly play out in the future. Thus, the Palace gives us more understanding and hope for the future.
According to Proverbs 22:28, it is said "remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." Young, Dwight notes that “saving old buildings and neighborhoods is an enormously effective way to provide continuity in the places where we live." Also, Conant, Isabel La Howe notes that "he who loves an old house never loves in vain.
Similarly, Deuteronomy 27:17 puts it that "cursed be he who removes his neighbor's landmark." As such, Mugaba Palace is an ancient landmark that should not be removed. It should be preserved and used for modern purposes.
The Palace as a cultural heritage is a source of identity, history and knowledge. It illustrates peoples’ capability and is a source of collective pride. The Palace is a major tourism asset and a source of community wealth.
The Writer is the Executive Director for Historic Resources Conservation Initiatives (HRCI), a member of NCT and the Interim Patron for Engabo Z’Ankole
Mugaba palace should be renovated in partnership with NCT and not GANTONE