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Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK

World: Africa

Uganda's 'wedding of the century'

The first Buganda royal wedding for 50 years (Photo:

Guests and well-wishers have thronged the Ugandan capital, Kampala, for the country's first royal wedding for nearly 50 years.

Israel Wamalwa: Thousands lined the streets in a jolly atmosphere
The Kabaka, or king of Uganda's influential Buganda kingdom, married a British-born former public relations executive in a lavish ceremony watched by thousands.

The king, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, exchanged vows with Sylvia Nagginda Luswata, a former World Bank employee, in Kampala's Anglican cathedral. The guests included President Yoweri Museveni.

Ugandans took a day off work to celebrate the event - which continues for three days.

Sex ban lifted

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And the king gave the Baganda extra cause for celebration when he granted them permission to break a tribal tradition - that no one but the royal couple should have sex on his wedding night.

Tradition has it that any man who fails to resist temptation on the Kabaka's wedding day will be attacked by a sheep and become impotent - something which is laughed off as superstition by many young people.

But human rights activists have complained about a custom which demands that the king symbolically marries a young virgin girl before the main wedding ceremony.

They say such a practice, even if only symbolic, has no place in modern Uganda.

'Wedding of the century'

[ image:  ]
The wedding of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, the 37th Kabaka, and his queen or Nabagereka, was dubbed the "wedding of the century".

Nearly 10,000 people, including members of foreign royal families, were invited to the reception at the Buganda royal palace at Mmengo.

Radio Uganda reported two deaths from people suffocating to death as large sought to get close to the reception.

Celebrations were also taking place in a nearby stadium, with hundreds of thousands of subjects expected to attend.

Breaking with tradition

[ image:  ]
At 43, Kabaka Mutebi kept his subjects guessing for a long time, before announcing his engagement in May.

He was the oldest bachelor king in Buganda's history - and his predecessors over the past 500 years have traditionally married in their teens, and had several wives and concubines.

His bride also fails to conform to a traditional image.

The 35-year-old has lived in the United States for the last 20 years and it is rumoured that at one time members of her clan were employed as cleaners for the royal family.

[ image: The Kabaka has a largely ceremonial role these days (Photo:]
The Kabaka has a largely ceremonial role these days (Photo:
But marital fever has swept Ugandan newspapers and pages have been devoted to discussion and analysis of the big event.

Manufucturers have also been cashing in on the occasion, churning out thousands of commemorative items.

Nowadays, Kabaka Mutebi II has a limited ceremonial role in sharp contrast to predecessors who once held the power of life and death over eight million subjects in the powerful feudal kingdom.

Recent history

When Uganda became independent, Buganda was given semi-federal status and the 36th Kabaka, Mutesa II, became Uganda's first president.

However, in 1966, former President Milton Obote disbanded the kingdom and attacked the palace.

The Kabaka died in exile in Britain three years later.

During Idi Amin's brutal regime the royal palace was used as an army torture centre.

His son and heir remained overseas, trying his hand at law, journalism and business before returning to Uganda in 1989 and reclaiming his family's substantial land holdings.

And in July 1993, Uganda's current President Yoweri Museveni restored the kingdom and allowed the 37th Kabaka, Ronald Mutebi II to take up his throne.

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