The sound of Buganda’s royal drums (Mujaguzo) reigned over Kasubi tombs on Monday, as Prince David Alexander Ssimbwa came to the end of his last journey on earth.
It was a hot, uncomfortable afternoon, but this did not put off the huge crowd that turned up to witness the burial of the last paternal uncle to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. For more than an hour, the royal drums beat for Ssimbwa, a brother to Sir Edward Mutesa II, the late father to Kabaka Mutebi.
The crowd gets more curious as members of the royal family lock themselves with the body inside the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga house for requisite rituals. Ssimbwa, 83, died at Nakasero hospital on November 6. He had been admitted a week earlier with hypertension (high blood pressure).
“He had been in and out of hospital. In fact before being taken to Nakasero, he had been to Mulago hospital. He got better and was discharged. After a few days, his condition deteriorated that we rushed him to Nakasero hospital,” said Prince Fredrick Jjunju, a family spokesman.
In the late 1990s, Ssimbwa underwent a successful kidney transplant in India but later suffered other complications. The family said Ssimbwa got worse late last month, after he lost a land-related court case to the Madhvani group.
Born on March 21, 1931, Ssimbwa attended Budo Junior School and St Mary’s College, Kisubi. In 1958, he joined the kingdom’s Education ministry as a clerk and later on as an inspector of schools until the 1966 attack the Kabaka’s palace and the eventual abolition of kingdoms.
“He was very close to Sir Edward Mutesa and resembled him so much that as Mutesa fled, following the 1966 crisis, government forces mistook him for [the King], arrested him and imprisoned him in Luzira until 1968,” Buganda kingdom spokesman Denis Walusimbi told The Observer.
After his release from prison, Ssimbwa returned to his Kabowa residence, and led a modest life, depending on handouts from kingdom loyalists. With the overthrow of the Obote I government, Idi Amin Dada, who was seeking to mend fences with the royalty in Buganda, invited all educated members of the royal family for deployment in the civil service.
Prince Ssimbwa got appointed to the Ugandan embassy in Ethiopia. In 1971-1977, he served as assistant secretary at the embassy before his transfer to the embassy in China in the same position. In 1996, Prince Ssimbwa was recalled from China. He remained without any formal employment until 1998 when President Museveni named him a senior presidential aisor on culture, a position he held until his death.
“He was a committed and a very hard-working man [he was so] down to earth that at the embassy in Addis Ababa, very few of us knew him as a member of the royal family,” said Ssenyonga Njuki, who worked with him.
Prince Ssimbwa was a celebrated sportsman with a bias towards football and lawn tennis.
“He loved football very much. In fact during the colonial times, he played for the national team,” Walusimbi said.
Both the kingdom and the family remained tight-lipped on the number of children and grandchildren he is survived with, apparently because in Buganda culture, the number of children a man has is never counted. Until July this year when he turned up at the closure of Buganda Tourism expo, Prince Ssimbwa had never appeared in public with his nephew, Kabaka Mutebi.
The octogenarian prince further excited Buganda loyalists a month later when he turned up during the opening of the 22nd session of the Buganda Lukiiko.He later posed for photographs with the Kabaka at the main entrance of the Bulange house.
At Bulange, the seat of Buganda kingdom, flags flew at half-mast on Friday, although the kingdom’s official mourning started on Saturday afternoon.
“He died when the Kabaka was out of the palace [away in Kabula county]. Under such circumstances, culture dictates that the Kabaka first returns to his palace for the kingdom to mourn,” said Hajji Muhamood Ssemambo Ssekimpi, the second deputy Katikkiro and head of Prince Ssimbwa’s burial committee.
During a requiem service at Namirembe cathedral, November 10, Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga ordered that his casket be draped in the kingdom’s blue and white colours in honour of the prince’s contribution to development in Buganda. At 5:12pm, he was laid to rest at Kasubi tombs – where his father also rests.
Source : The Observer