Value of Ancestors’ Graves

The hypothesis being that one can tell who the current actors on Uganda’s land scene are by how they answer the question:

“What is the value of my ancestors’ graves?”

undefinedParticularly, in the context of the increasing possibility that one might be forced to value one’s ancestors’ remains and their graves, when a particular kind of “development” comes to their resting places.

  • How would one value the worth of one’s ancestors’ remains and therefore the value of the land that is their resting place?
  • Should one value one’s ancestors’ remains on the basis of the cost incurred for the burial; or perhaps, the number of mourners that attended the funeral; or perhaps, the cost of relocation and reburying?

There is evidence to support the assertion that a certain kind of “development” usually takes priority over the resting places of our ancestors, here in Uganda. There are difference, though, of how the bones of our ancestors are treated when that kind of “development” descends upon their resting places.

It is those differences and the attitude towards those differences that shows you who the actors in Uganda’s current landscape are, I hypothesise; and pan intended. There are, indeed, precedents in other parts of the world that one can draw from for a comparative analysis using this analytical framework of: “What is the value of my ancestors’ graves?”

Take for instance, the manner in which the remains – the bones – of the Kings of England are treated when it is discovered that “development” descended on their resting places.

Patrick Sawer in his 2016 article, “Another car park, another King: “Henry I’s remains’ found beneath tarmac at Reading Gaol,” narrates that in 2012, the bones of King Richard III, for example, were found under a car park in Leicester in England and were exhumed from underneath the car park.

The bones were ultimately reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, in 2015, following genetic testing that confirmed that the bones were of the king. The reburying of the King’s bones was with significant pomp and ceremony and, as reported by the BBC in its 2017 story, “Richard III: Leicester Cathedral reburial service for King,” it was with significant financial cost to the State.

During the service, The Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, said: “People have come in their thousands from around the world to this place of honour, not to judge or condemn but to stand humble and reverent.” From car park to cathedral…Today we come to give this King, and these mortal remains the dignity and honour denied to them in death.


In contrast, in the name of “development”, it is the norm in Uganda that the mortal remains of our ancestors are not accorded the dignity and the honour that they deserve. They are not re-located at the cost of the State. 

Instead, and knowingly, in the name of “development”, the bones of our ancestors are often crushed to dust and are compacted by wheels of graders; turning them into manure for growing sugarcane, for example.

4 responses to “Value of Ancestors’ Graves”

  1. How topical, coincidentally so too!
    See, our ancestral burial grounds; ebijja, are situated in an “affluent” part of Kampala city.
    The family, and all others, that stand in the path of development, will inevitably collide with this juggernaut that is development!

    Ngugi’s Petals of Blood springs to mind.
    Thanks for your thoughts.


  2. […] Just like those cultivation machines, the graders clearing the land for sugarcane plantations, the Minister’s attitude and her speech seemed firmly located within a paradigm that promotes the crushing of my ancestors’ bones in the name of “development”. […]


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