Ssemagulu Royal Museum: Preserving Uganda’s Culture, History

Uganda’s first Prime Minister Ben Kiwanukas car at Ssemagulu Museum

Uganda has a rich history right from the pre-colonial times, through the Arab trade, the arrival of the first European missionaries in 1877, to the time when she was made a British protectorate (colony) in 1894.

On 9th October 1962, Uganda gained her independence and went through a number of governments before the NRA (Present Day NRM) took over power in 1986 till date.

A visit at Ssemagulu Royal Museum located at Mutundwe, a Kampala suburb, will give you a great insight of where Uganda came from to where it is now.

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The privately owned museum boasts of many historical collections like the black Benz which was among the fleet of cars used by Sir Andrew Cohen (Governor of Uganda from 1952 to 1957) among others.

I and a group of journalists recently visited the museum at the invite of the proprietor John Ssempebwa, who is also the Deputy CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board and our guide of the day.

“I got the idea to start this place about 8 years ago when I was in Brussels and we paid about 15 Euros just to see a bronze fountain of the Peeing Boy Statue. When I went back to my Hotel room I thought to myself: Uganda has a rich history, why can’t we set up a place with even more collections?”  Ssempebwa said.

The Museum Proprietor John Ssempebwa

“Four years later after getting capital, I started the Ssemagulu Museum you see now. The house originally belonged to my late father,” he told us.

Ssempebwa explained that the name “Ssemagulu” was got from the first throne of the Kabaka of Buganda, which is now called the “Namulondo”.

The museum became even more popular earlier this year when it rescued Uganda’s first Prime Minister Ben Kiwanukas car at Wakaliga police station where it was dumped when his house and residence in Lubaga was demolished.

Mr. Ssempebwa says, even in its poor state, the late Ben Kiwanuka’s car carries part of Uganda’s history and hence ought to be preserved.

“I felt bad to see the Late Ben Kiwanuka’s car dumped at the Police Station and yet when I was young, I used to see it on the road. That is why I sought permission from the Lord Mayor of Kampala to move it here,” Ssempebwa said, adding that he has plans to repair it.

He also acknowledged that the number of visitors at the museum doubled ever since Ben Kiwanuka’s vintage Mercedes Benz Ponton was added to their collection.

During our visit, about 200 students from different schools had visited the museum and were being taken around in groups by the guides.

Students visiting the museum

Also at Ssemagulu Museum, are about several drawings and amazing 50 sculptures of colonialists, Uganda martyrs, Kings and other historical figures and personalities mainly from Buganda Kingdom

“Tourism in Uganda should not be just about wildlife about also culture and history. 10 years from now this museum will be benefiting the people in this area,” Ssempebwa says.

With museums like Ssemagulu, the Igongo Cultural Centre in Mbarara and others in existence, the next generations will in all likelihood get to see and learn about the history of Uganda and have a story to tell.

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