The Katereke Prison Ditch: A Picture of the past violent Buganda
The Katereke prison ditch: Today I set out to experience the story of the tragic, brutal and violent episode of Buganda Kingdom that is 30minutes away from the capital Kampala. In the university bus, early Sunday morning along with my classmates we made our way to one of Buganda’s rich cultural site that I had never even imagined existed. The highway ride was smooth until we reached Nsangi and branched off to a rugged dusty murram road which we rode on or for about 30 minutes before we stopped at the lush green beautiful environment that welcomed us. The place looks nothing like tragedy or death or brutality or any of those words that people have used to describe it. Instead the place looked serene and beautiful.
We met with our guide a local Muganda who also takes part in the care taking of the place. He explained that the beauty we see before our eyes once upon a time was an atrocious assassinating cavity of a large number of Buganda princesses and princes by Kabaka Kimera. Kabaka kimera who rose to the throne in 1374 up to 1404 was the third King of the Buganda Kingdom and the only son of King Kalemeera the son of Kabaka Chwa 1. He also established his capital on masanafu hill.
On ascension onto the throne, the King was insecure about his ownership of the throne. He constantly feared that his brothers (princes) and sisters (princesses) would steal the throne from him at any time. This fear that kept eating him up day by day aroused a monster in him that pushed him to order for the digging of a deep ditch in which he threw his brothers and sisters whose arrest he had ordered for. In this deep circular ring or call it a circular trench surrounded by thorns to keep them from escaping, the royals were left to die of hunger and thirst. Kabaka Kalema intended this move to keep the throne for himself. However his move was not so smart as there was Mwanga who was in exile at the time. Therefore he survived the slaughter and later succeeded Kabaka Kalema as King.
Today the rains have eroded some soils that have partly filled up the ditch but it still remains relatively deep standing at about 10 metres deep. The place stands as one of the most significant cultural sites both in the country and in Buganda kingdom. Here there are also a number of alters. Each alter consists of different regalia like pots, smoking pipes, calabashes, pieces of broken pots among others for different rituals.
These are believed to be a connection with the small gods of Buganda and many people flock the place to ask the gods to intervene in their different situations. Others come here for thanks giving after they have received what they want from the gods. On one particular visit I happened to have stumbled upon a rare opportunity of meeting one of the believers and worshipers of this place. She assertss that the gods had ascended onto her and sent her to come and worship (locally known as okusamira). In her quest, the lady literally jumped of the motor bike (boda boda) before it could come to a total stop. Threw off her shoes as she run to one of the alters shaking her head round in all directions vigorously with disturbing, whipping sounds. Unfortunately we were not able to stay long enough to see her get well.
Kabaka Kimera later on died when he was clubbed on the head by his grandson accidentally while out hunting. However to some it was a deliberate act, at the outset he was laid to rest where he was killed but was later exhumed and reburied in lunyo Entebbe near the current state house. Today the prison is quiet, relaxed however the surviving earth works are a clear reminder of the warring times when the fate of the kingdom hung in the balance