Between 8 and 11 November 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission visited the property to advise stakeholders on the overall reconstruction of the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, to define in collaboration with the State Party, a Desired state of conservation (DSOC) for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, the corrective measures and an implementation timeframe to achieve the DSOC. On 21 February 2011, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report in response to the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session, and on the 30 March 2011 it submitted a revised Reconstruction Strategy. The mission report is available online at the following web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM.
a) Revised Reconstruction Strategy
The revised reconstruction strategy is a much extended version of the one submitted in 2010. It has evolved out of consultations with stakeholders, including the entire community, as well as desk research on specific aspects of the reconstruction, and discussions with the Reactive monitoring mission team. It has been compiled by the National Technical Committee on the reconstruction of Muzibu Azaala Mpanga that was set up to coordinate the implementation of the restoration of the Kasubi Tombs. The Committee is made up of representatives from the Uganda Government, the Buganda Kingdom and the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO.
The revised Strategy now clearly addresses the key issues: justification of reconstruction model; research into photographs and archival material; documentation of the site of Muzibu Azaala Mpanga; inventory of rescued artefacts; identification of materials for the reconstruction; traditional construction practices; ceremonial rituals related to the reconstruction; project management of the reconstruction, fire protection; capacity building; documentation of the reconstruction; and the involvement of stakeholders. It includes an Action Plan and a draft Risk Management Plan. Other issues considered during the mission and highlighted in the report are:
The fire has brought about a strong realisation that there is a gap in knowledge of traditional Ganda architecture, built prior to the colonial era and its evolution in the 20th century. No detailed records exist for the earliest versions of the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga building. The mission notes that there is now a real interest in reviving traditional knowledge and skills, particularly amongst the younger members of the Baganda clans involved in the re-building project. The mission considered there was a need for focused research on the large number of existing tombs and also to gather information that might exist in British and other European libraries. The intangible value of the property is linked not just to ceremonies but also to the knowledge of traditional building practices.
§ Evidence on which to base reconstruction
The Muzibu Azaala Mpanga was originally constructed in 1882 and became a Royal Mausoleum in 1884. In 1905, the building was reduced in size because of structural problems related to its very large roof. Further remodelling of the building took place in 1938, and at that time non-vernacular materials were introduced. Concrete supports and steel beams had the advantage to allow more floor space in the absence of a forest of poles supporting the roof. It is argued that any reconstruction of the earlier buildings would be highly conjectural and therefore the mission agreed on the 1938 model to base the reconstruction. It is however also proposed that the apex should be raised to provide a steeper roof, more similar in profile to the earlier buildings, as this would shed the rainwater more readily.
§ Skills and capacity building
An issue that emerges strongly from the Reconstruction Strategy is the key role of the craftsmen with knowledge of traditional construction techniques and building materials. The reconstruction process has fostered a revival of interest in the technical and social facets of this work, which is shared between different clans. The work of the head thatcher and his apprentices, practising since 1968, is now of supreme importance. The mission noted that apart from these thatchers, no other groups of craftsmen held knowledge of historical construction methods and details of material used prior to the 1938 re-building. The Strategy further foresees capacity building activities for skilled workmen including thatchers, decorators, curators, engineers, and architects, to improve the reconstruction process management.
§ Project management for the Reconstruction
Responsibility for the reconstruction lays with the authorities at the highest national level. The reconstruction will be managed by a tripartite arrangement between the Government of Uganda, the Buganda Kingdom, and the Uganda National Commission of UNESCO and will come under the guidance of a Cabinet Committee. The reconstruction will be handled by the Technical Committee. A project architect, a site manager and a site supervisor (who is a conservator), have been appointed. Documentation will be carried out by staff and students from Makerere University (Uganda).
§ Documentation of the reconstruction process
The entire process of reconstruction will be recorded, including gathering of materials, and documentation of meetings, ceremonies, and visitor responses. Five traditional bearers from the Buganda Kingdom will be identified and trained to document elements of intangible heritage. This documentation should be compiled in a well illustrated published report, which the mission considered should show the successful implementation of the entire reconstruction process.
§ Risk Management Strategy
The mission noted the high vulnerability of many of the remaining structures to fire as a result of faulty wiring and the lack of routine monitoring and maintenance. The Reconstruction Strategy includes a draft Risk Management Strategy that considers the main threats to the overall property. These include besides fire issues, encroachment, dumping of rubbish, lack of regular monitoring and maintenance and the possible de-motivation of traditional craftsmen if they are not adequately recognised. The mission understood that a separate fire prevention strategy has been developed, but this was not made available to the mission.
b) Management Plan
A revised Management Plan 2011-2015 was launched on 27 January 2011. This Management Plan clearly stipulates the overall management structure of the site, the roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders and reflects the change in focus and approach in reaction to the fire destructions. In order to address the complexities of the re-building process, an amended management system will be put in place during 2012, by the newly appointed site manager. The revised management plan aims to reinforce the role and status of traditional custodians and the mission hopes that they will now be rewarded more appropriately according to their level of involvement and responsibility.
c) Conservation of the property
The reconstruction process has also drawn attention to the overall conservation of the property and the need for improvements of other buildings, fences and the landscape in general. The mission noted that the overall state of conservation of the property was poor. It also expressed concern that the Drum House and the Dress House that have recently been reconstructed do not reflect the key aspects of Ganda architecture. These have been constructed around a tall concrete cylinder, raised on plinths, and with steep thatched roofs that do not sweep down to almost ground level as in traditional structures. Not only do these roofs break with tradition, but they also render maintenance by thatchers much more difficult. Most of the other buildings in the inner courtyard (apart from the Gate House) bear little resemblance to traditional Ganda architecture and this creates severe vulnerabilities for the authenticity of the overall ensemble. The mission noted that the strategy foresees the preparation of an overall Master Plan for the whole property. A budget that has been drawn up for the reconstruction includes the rehabilitation of the Gate House, improvements at the Royal Drum House, the renovation of 15 other houses, the provision of a permanent water supply (crucial for fire-fighting equipment), and improvement of drainage and sewage systems.
The mission notes that threats to the property from commercialisation of some 40 acres of its land had apparently been averted.
It considered that it was essential that future development strengthen the cultural attributes of the property in order to preserve its integrity. Overall, the mission concluded that sufficient progress has been made to allow the State Party to start site preparation and emergency works and that the revised Strategy, together with the revised reconstruction drawings, the updated Action Plan, the appointment of a Site Manager and an overall Management structure, are the pre-conditions necessary to lead to a satisfactory reconstruction of the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga. However, further phases of reconstruction need to be based on approved detailed plans and drawings. The mission acknowledged the pressure from many stakeholders for the work to be undertaken as quickly as possible in order to re-enclose the sacred spaces. However, this need must be balanced against the need for a reconstruction that sustains the Outstanding Universal Value.