Vince Crawley's Africa Blog

My Photos of Kasubi Tombs – Uganda Cultural Site Destroyed by Fire

Posted in Culture and history by Vince Crawley on March 20, 2010

A fire March 16, 2010, destroyed one of Uganda’s most important historic and cultural sites, the royal Kasubi palace tombs, a wood-and-thatch structure originally built in 1882.  See this article in New Vision newspaper.

In April 2008, a colleague and I were in Uganda on business (arranging press interviews related to U.S. AFRICOM) and were fortunate enough to visit the Kasubi royal tombs long before they were destroyed this week by fire. We had found ourselves with a spare day before our evening flight home, so we hired a guide with a car and asked to see the important sites of Kampala. The Kasubi Tombs were one of the places our guide, Ismael, took us, and I’m posting some of my photographs.

The photo above shows the main structure that burned. This formerly was a Royal House built by Kabaka (King) Muteesa I in 1882 at a place formerly known as Nabulagala on what is today the western outskirt of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. In keeping with custom, Muteesa and his descendents were buried here. The structure was more than two stories tall. It is surrounded by a semi-circular compound of royal buildings. Supported by wooden beams, the walls and ceiling are made of thatched palm. It is a fully traditional structure from well before Uganda’s “colonial” era. (Uganda was never a colony but did, about 1900, become a British “protectorate,” while retaining much more independence than most colonies. The Ugandans are proud that they were never formally colonized.)

The picture above is one of the entrances to the compound.

The above photo, taken from the entrance to the compound, shows some of the scale of the palace tomb in the background. It is a busy tourist site.

Above, visitors leave their shoes at the door.

Above is our guide Ismael, left, and our guide at the tombs, Nicholas, right, who sat with us inside the public portion of the building and spent perhaps half an hour or more telling us the history of Buganda and its kings. Buganda, he explained, was an old and thriving kingdom, (more…)


U.S. – “No Desire to Americanize Conflict in Somalia”

Posted in Uncategorized by Vince Crawley on March 13, 2010

The United States has “No desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia,” says Ambassador Johnnie Carson, U.S. envoy to Africa.

See Carson’s statement on U.S. policy in Somalia.

U.S. Africa Command is not in Somalia and is not training Somali government forces. U.S. AFRICOM support consists of training for African Union countries that provide peacekeepers for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Carson’s statement on Friday, March 12, follows a couple of recent articles:

The New York Times on March 6 reported that that the United States supports the Somali Transitional Federal Government.

U.S. Aiding Somalia in Its Plan to Retake Its Capital

Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman even quoted Carson: “This is not an American offensive,” said Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for Africa. “The U.S. military is not on the ground in Somalia. Full stop.”

As is often the case, some people read the Times story and followed-up to reinforce an apparent strongly held belief that African nations are incapable of planning anything without covert U.S. leadership. For example, the Times article led anti-NATO blogger Rick Rozoff to post an op-ed, called ” AFRICOM’s First War: U.S. Directs Large-Scale Offensive In Somalia,” on his “Stop NATO” website: Rozoff has never queried us, and we’re always responsive to media queries, not making a distinction between online and traditional media.

On Friday in D.C., Carson held a follow-up news conference on the issue of Somalia. His statements included the following:

Carson: “We have provided limited military support to the Transitional Federal Government. We do so in the firm belief that the TFG seeks to end the violence in Somalia that is caused by al-Shabaab and other extremist organizations.
However, the United States does not plan, does not direct, and does not coordinate the military operations of the TFG, and we have not and will not be providing direct support for any potential military offensives. Further, we are not providing nor paying for military advisors for the TFG. There is no desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia.
We are also aware of the reporting on the Somali – of the Somalia Monitoring Group’s concerns about the diversion of food and assistance in Somalia. The State Department has received the draft report and we are reviewing it carefully. I will not comment on that report because we have a representative from our Bureau of International Organizations who can answer those questions. But we are concerned about the troubling allegations that are contained in that document.
The Somali people have suffered tremendously throughout more than 20 years of conflict, and Somalia’s turmoil destabilizes not only that country, but the region and also some aspects of the international community. The U.S. recognizes that any long-term solution to the crisis in Somalia must be an inclusive political solution. We continue to call upon all those who seek peace in Somalia to reject terrorism and violence, and to participate in the hard work of stabilizing the country for the benefit of Somalia’s population.”

See also AFRICOM’s General Ward testifying before U.S. Congress: TRANSCRIPT: AFRICOM’s Ward Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Committee.

Ward said that Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government is:

“for now, our best potential for helping to turn around some of the instability and lack of governance that we’ve experienced there.  What’s going on in Mogadishu with respect to the desires of the transition government to reclaim parts of Mogadishu is a work in progress. I’m not aware of the specifics, so I’ll have to come back to you, sir, with the specifics on what that current operation looks like.

But to the degree the TFG, the transition federal government, can, in fact, re-exert control over Mogadishu with the help of AMISOM and others, I think it’s something that we would look to do and support, as well as the other provisions of the Djibouti process that look to instilling governance, instilling developmental things that would serve the benefit of the Somali people, to cause that situation to reverse itself.

We looked to participate with those who also support them, the other nations and the neighbors who contribute to the AMISOM mission, in particular Uganda, Burundi, supporting their work and trying to lend the hand that they lend to the TFG in increasing stability.

So those efforts are ongoing. It’s an effort that I think we would certainly support, and we would look to do it in ways that add to stability in that part of the continent.”

For more on the work of the U.S. military in Africa, see: