Kampala. Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Mutebi has directed his subjects to redevelop Lubiri palace to world class standards when the three remaining phases are completed.
The Kabaka gave the directive as he received the first phase of the renovation and furnishing of Twekobe, his main palace in Mengo, on Tuesday.
“The entire palace must be redeveloped to the standards of the current times but cognizant [of the fact] that it is a historical place and a treasure of our culture and values,” he said.
The Twekobe was captured on May 24, 1966 by the military on the orders of then prime minister Milton Obote and after a fierce battle, the then president and father of the reigning Kabaka, Sir Edward Muteesa II, was forced into exile to the United Kingdom where he later died.
Subsequent government forces occupied it until December 19, 1997 when it was officially handed back to Buganda Kingdom at an event where President Museveni was chief guest. The army had occupied it for 31 years.
“Back and forth negotiations characterised by antagonism from those who did not want our palace back almost collapsed. They kept pushing talks ahead but we stuck to our demand until when we agreed,” the Kabaka said.
“We insisted on having it back to wipe the tears from our eyes but there were elements during negotiations who did not want us to have the palace back, its return would help to restore our respect and historic importance,” he added.
He thanked the reconstruction committee headed by businessman Godfrey Kirumira that was constituted last year to revamp Twekobe for the excellent job done.
“We think you took an exemplary pace which will enable its full completion. As we renovate it, we must take comparative studies and ensure the palace is put at a class suitable of today’s standards,” the Kabaka added.
Mr Kirumira said the palace will be upgraded to a level like a five-star hotel and that his committee wishes it becomes the best in Africa.
After its return to Buganda, renovations of the kingdom properties took place in 1999 and 2001 but a major redevelopment, including furnishing the bedrooms and offices in the palace, had not been done.
Following renovation and furnishing of Twekobe, the Kabaka will now host his guests from here. According to the kingdom sources, the two major first dignitaries to be hosted will be President Museveni who is expected to attend a dinner on July 31, during the 25th coronation celebrations together with King Ahsante Hene of Ghana.
The Katikkiro of Buganda, Mr Charles Peter Mayiga, said with creativity and determination, everything can be done. He directed that before the 26th coronation in 2019, the entire palace should have been completed.
There have been various proposals to redevelop the palace including setting up an airfield and shopping malls but it was not clarified whether such plans are still on.