The Kasubi Tombs, is the site of the burial grounds for four kabaka of Buganda and other members of the Buganda royal family. As a result, the site remains an important spiritual and political site for the people of Buganda as well as an important example of traditional architecture. According to the Baganda, it is also considered a spiritual site and center for the kingdom. The recorded former kings of Buganda buried here are four (successive) and they are the following while the descendants of these four Kabakas are buried elsewhere on the site.
Muteesa I (1835-1884)
Mwanga II (1867- 1903)
Daudi Chwa (1896-1939)
Sir Edward Mutesa II (1924-1969)
It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2001 when it was described as one of the most remarkable buildings using purely vegetal materials in the entire region of sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Heritage Site comprises around 26 hectares (64 acres) on the Kasubi hill in Kampala, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northwest of the city centre. Most of the site is open agricultural land that is farmed using traditional techniques. One corner contains a royal palace built in 1882 by Muteesa I, to replace a palace built by his built by his father, Ssuuna II in 1820. The new palace became a royal burial ground on his death in 1884. The site is one of 31 royal tombs across the Buganda kingdom since the kingdom was founded in the 13th century. Traditionally, the body of the deceased king was buried in one place with a separate shrine for the deceased king’s jawbone, believed to contain his soul.
A gatehouse (Bujjabukula) leads to a small courtyard and the drum house (Ndoga-Obukaba) which houses the royal drums, and then to a second main circular courtyard (Olugya) located on the hilltop, surrounded by a reed fence.
Inside the Tombs, the main central building (Muzibu Azaala Mpanga), some 31 metres (102 ft) in circumference and 7.5 metres (25 ft) high, is located astride the border of the courtyard, on the edge opposite the entrance. It was originally constructed from wooden poles, reed wattle and daub, topped by a thick thatched dome, with straw resting on 52 rings of palm fronds (representing the 52 traditional clans of the Baganda people).
A low wide arch leads to the sacred spaces within, separated by reed partitions, with bark cloth decorations, and momentos of the kabakas. The tombs are housed in a sacred forest (Kibira) within, concealed from public view by a bark cloth curtain. The floor is covered by lemon grass and palm leaf mats.
The courtyard is also bordered by several buildings of traditional construction, including several “wives houses” for the deceased kabaka’s widows who tend the family graves. Their houses are traditionally constructed of wattle and daub with straw thatched roofs, although over time some were rebuilt with bricks and metal roofs added. It is also the home of members of the royal family, and royal officials including the Nalinya (spiritual guardian), her deputy the Lubuga (responsible for coordinating the farming on the site) and her administrative assistant the Katikkiro. It is also a centre for the traditional manufacture and decoration of bark cloth by the Ngo clan and for traditional thatching techniques of the Ngeye clan.
The building is maintained and managed by the Buganda Kingdom. It became a protected site under Uganda law in 1972, and the land is registered in the name of the Kabaka on behalf of the Kingdom. The site remains an important spiritual and political site for the Ganda people.