Buganda, Bunyoro fight over Nakayima cultural site escalates

The management of Nakayima Cultural Site in Mubende district has come under contention with several groups of people, individuals, cultural institutions and local governments claiming responsibility for the historical place.

Claimants include Buganda and Bunyoro Kingdoms, Mubende Municipality and a group of people known as Basazima, who are said to be descendants of the last priestess of the shrine at the site.

A few individuals have also come up saying that they were directed by spirits to look after the cultural site.

Located on Mubende hill, Nakayima Cultural Site is the home to the renowned Nakayima tree, which is said to have supernatural powers for healing, fertility, wealth and good health.

The tree, considered an important part of African spirituality, got its name from a beautiful spiritual princess Nakayima, who allegedly disappeared in it.

According to oral history, the tree existed over 600 years ago, and it’s traced to the once powerful Chwezi Empire.

It stands at the point where it is said that King Ndahura, the first ruler of the Bachwezi, passed out most of his traditional rituals.

Today, the tree that never sheds leaves, attracts hundreds of people seeking solutions to their problems, asking for blessings, and cure for even the strangest diseases.

This unique history has turned it into a worship centre where traditionalists go to pay homage to Nakayima.

It is also a key tourist site in the country.

Buganda kingdom’s county chief for Buweekula (Mubende) Immaculate Nantaayi accuses Mubende Town Council of refusing to hand over the management of the site to the kingdom authorities yet Buganda has a significant cultural and traditional attachment to the cite.

To Nantaayi, the current managers focus on getting revenue in the form of gate collections, and as a result, the place is becoming a haven for criminals and quacks.

Buganda’s Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II visited the cultural site in July 2017

But Mubende Municipal Mayor Innocent Ssekiziyivu says Mubende Town Council is just a custodian of the site which, according to him, is under the management and control of the central government.

According to Ssekiziyivu, Buganda Kingdom lost control over the area during the colonial era when the protectorate government took over the site and built a house that was later transformed into a presidential lodge.

“The truth is known; this site belongs to the no one but the government of Uganda. We are just custodians who are there to look after it and maintain it. That’s all. Whoever feels like he wants to take over the place must go to the central government,” Ssekiziyivu said.

He added that more groups have come up in the last two years to claim responsibility for the site.

“Buganda claims it, we have seen the Basazima, Bunyoro kingdom also showed interests in the site. If we are to give it away to everyone who claims it, who will it be?” he wondered.

Dr Yolam Nsamba, the Royal Commissioner for the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, confirmed that Bunyoro has vested interest in the site because it holds much of the kingdom’s history.

He said that during his recent visit to the area, he found out that whoever is currently managing the area is destroying the place and its heritage.

He says that their plea is to have the place preserved in its natural way which he thinks can be done through joining hands with all parties with a vested interest.

Recently, Buwekula county leaders and Mubende Municipality clashed with Basizama clan leaders who had turned up at the place and started clearing some trees and some houses built in the vicinity of the site.

Led by a one Nakuzabasajja Sekyanzi, the clan Prime Minister (Katikkiro), Basazima clan members claim that they have been receiving revelations from their ancestor Nakayima who ordered them clean up the entire place so that she can rest in peace.