Business returns to normal in Kasese, Queen Elizabeth park

“We had only two cancellations. Aside from that, I’ve had a full house checking out and have a full house checking in tomorrow until Sunday,” Philbert Nabimanya, the manager of Volcano Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, said. He was commenting on how the tourism sector was affected after the shooting of two tourists and their driver along the road towards the Mweya peninsula in the park last week. Nabimanya noted that whereas this is a low season for tourism, visitors continue flocking to the national park.

Although the tragic October 17 attack took three lives, it seems to have left no adverse effect on the businesses in the area, especially with residents staying within the Queen Elizabeth conservation area and Kasese town. Along the Katwe road by Lake Nyamununka, from where the incident happened, among other roads that go through the park, passenger and tourism vehicles were sighted moving up and about. Motorcycles and bicycles carrying bunches of matooke were also seen going through the park, a sign that life had returned to normal. Vehicles carrying hundreds of tourists were sighted at Katwe and Kabatoro gates.

Others, carrying mainly wildlife researchers, were seen taking the Ishasha sector. Inside the park, it rains and shines after, as the kobs, elephants and warthogs, among other herbivores, can be sighted grazing on the sprouting grass. On the other hand, hippos are seen wallowing in the mud as lions lie undisturbed. Along the Kazinga Channel, which connects Lakes George and Edward, are hundreds of species of birds and mammals taking a dip. Several boats were seen carrying tourists for the two hour ride along the 40km water channel. Inside the park, locals were seen clearing the invasive species of plants with pangas, slashers and axes.

Several Police patrol vehicles full of armed soldiers were seen combing different corners of the park to ensure safety and security. Kasese town was buzzing with activity as several bars and nightclubs were open, doing business until the wee hours of the night. National Id cards, passports All lodges, guesthouses and hotels require visitors to produce national identification cards or passports before getting registered inside the accommodation facilities. Meanwhile, roadblocks were seen mounted at different points along the Kasese highway and fighter jets were on standby at the Kasese aerodrome.

In its earlier communication, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which manages protected areas in the country, reaffirmed that Queen Elizabeth and other national parks remain safe for tourists and travellers driving through. Uganda Tourism Board, with its mandate of marketing Uganda as a destination for visitors, has continued to engage several international marketing agencies to bank on their clientele as possible visitors to Uganda — the Pearl of Africa.

The Government is going to name a road after the two tourists and their guide who perished during the terror attack last week. This, Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister for ICT and National Guidance, said was one of the cabinet resolutions in their most recent meeting. In addition, Baryomunsi said the Government is not going to compensate the families of the deceased tourists or their guides but is going to support them. “We are working with the Uganda High Commission in London and they are in touch with the families of the tourists,” Baryomunsi said. He was addressing a journalists’ conference called yesterday at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala. The minister said the Government was going to give condolence money, locally referred to as amabugo. “We have engaged with them, but I am not privy to the details of the discussions.” In addition to the tourists, the relatives of the local tour driver are also going to receive support. “We are working as government representatives in Kaberamaido, the ancestral district of the Ugandan guide and driver, to support any children in school,” the minister said.

Asked whether the attackers were terrorists or other armed personnel, Baryomunsi said they have undertaken investigations as well as tracking using dogs, which he referred to as the canines or K9. He said government conclusions are based on such interventions. The minister also said they were going to use drones and other technologies to monitor movements across the porous border points where they do not have heavy deployments. He also appealed to the local leaders to report any suspicious movements, particularly of people who are strangers in their areas.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the districts of Kasese, Kanungu, Rubirizi, Kamwenge, Bushenyi and Rukungiri in western Uganda. Located approximately 376km southwest of Kampala and about 350km away from Entebbe International Airport, it is the second most visited national park in Uganda, after Murchison Falls National Park. It is home to over 95 mammal species, including 20 carnivores, and over 600 bird species. Other tourist attractions include Lakes George and Edward and the Katwe explosion craters. It also houses the tree climbing lions in the Ishasha sector.

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