Olubiri is the official residence for the ruling King in Buganda. In Buganda, it was customary for a new king to choose a hill where he would build a new palace. This palace would become the new capital of the Kingdom and the King was free to rename the place as he so wishes.
However, the site chosen always had the following elements;
- It was always a very big land to accommodate many houses and a large number of people.
- The place chosen by the King always had command on all the major roads to all parts of the Kingdom.
- The Kings also preferred to be near the Lake Victoria for easy escape in case there is any invasion or rebellion.
For security reasons, there was a court-house which was always built facing the main gate to the palace. In other wards, the court-house and the palace faced in the same direction. This was done in order to accommodate the belief that the spirits walk in a straight line and that there is no obstacle in the King`s spirits` way. In Buganda, there is one official palace situated at Mengo called Mengo palace and it`s considered to be the capital of the Kingdom. All the official functions in the Kingdom are performed from Mengo palace. However, the ruling King has a right to own his private palace apart from the official palace at Mengo. Some of the private palaces include Bamunanika palace in Bulemeezi, Nkoni palace in Buddu which were built by King Sir Edward Muteesa II, Salama palace and Kikeera palace which were built by Sir Daudi Chwa, Banda and Kireka and these were built by Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. As we earlier mentioned, Mengo palace is the official palace for the Kingdom and it is hereditary. It is the official residence for all the Kings of Buganda. In this palace, we find the Kabaka`s official house called Twekobe.
Mengo palace covers a very wide area and it`s covered with an extensive fence around it. It was constructed by Ssekabaka Mwanga11 in 1885. When he took over the throne in 1884 at the age of 18, he first put his palace at Masaja. While at Masaja, Mwanga thought of shifting his palace to another palace. He had always admired Nkaawo hill on which members of the Nvubu clan kept their grinding stones (Emmengo). These grinding stones were used by members of the Nvubu clan to grind herbal medicine. Mwanga decided to construct his palace at Nkaawo hill before the grinding stones were shifted. However, when the palace was completed, it immediately started facing a lot of problems. Mwanga was advised to collaborate with members of the Nvubu clan to transfer the grinding stones to Mbazi in Kyaggwe. It`s from these grinding stones (Emmengo) that the name Mengo was adopted.
The palace became Mengo Palace and the hill became Mengo hill. When the palace was complete, it caught fire which destroyed all the important documents for the Kingdom. This scared the King so much that he ran away from the Lubiri and took hostage with the Roman Catholic Missionaries at Nalukolongo. He later left the Missionaries and went to live with Mukasa who was Katikiiro to his father Ssekabaka Muteesa II;. While at Mukasa`s place, lightening struck and destroyed everything at Mukasa`s home towards February 1886. The Kabaka ran away from Mukasa`s home and went to Munyonyo where he put up another palace at Mulungu hill near Lake Victoria.