By Steven Candia and Benedict Okethwengu
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni yesterday seized the viewing of the solar eclipse to market the tourism industry and called for the preservation and conservation of wildlife.
Addressing hundreds of ecstatic eclipse viewers (both local and foreign) who thronged Owiny Primary School in Pakwach town, Nebbi district, Museveni also warned of the social dangers that can be imported into the country through tourism.
Highlighting Uganda’s endless endowments as he appealed particularly to foreign tourists, Museveni assured the world of peace and stability in the country
He said peace is a prerequisite for tourism and invited the world to make Uganda their favourite tourism destination.
WHERE?: President Yoweri Museveni; Minister of tourism, Maria Mutagamba; Fisheries state minister, Ruth Nankabirwa.
MOON OR SUN?: Here, the sun, appearing like a gibbous moon, is being eaten out of view by the moon.
TOO HOT: Being a vantage view point, Owiny Primary School in the Nebbi district was a centre of local and foreign attraction.
At the function attended by ministers and members of the diplomatic corps, Museveni said Uganda was endowed with unequalled natural and cultural flora and fauna.
But he was sensitive to the reason that had gathered the multitude of people at the schoolthe best viewing place, keeping his speech short.
“I am looking at my watch because I do not want to interfere with your viewing of the eclipse,” he said.
After his speech, Museveni retreated to the presidential tent to wait for the hybrid solar eclipse. With the aid of viewing filters, he occasionally left his seat to look at the sky and follow the slow and gradual process that began at 4:15pm.
DELICATE SITUATION: This viewer did not take any chances and kept her whole face behind a mighty shield!
CRESCENT-LIKE: The arched yellow slit of the sun representing moments before the total eclipse could occur.
FUN STUFF: Miles away in Kampala, locals also hoped to be a part of the unique occurance. But did they?
At about 5:11pm the sun, which had hitherto been covered by clouds, reappeared with three quarters of it covered by the moon.
Viewers cheered as others jostled for a picture moment. At 5:21pm, the moon covered the sun totally, plunging the place into darkness. Viewers went wild with the experience that last happened in 1466 and is expected to reoccur in 2114.
Museveni said there were deliberate efforts by the Government to revamp the tourism industry which contributes $1.5m and the efforts were beginning to bear fruit.
“Uganda is regaining its position as a top tourism destination as it was in the 1950s and 60’s,” he said and appealed for the preservation of wildlife.
UNIQUE MOMENT: Locals in Lira district, closer to Nebbi than Kampalans are, glance skywards shielded by camera films.
BLUISH GLIMPSE: At Soroti Sports grounds in Soroti town, a strategic point to chance at the eclipse, locals made the best out of the moment.
BLACK PAPER: School children in Lira made it a point not to be left out of this rare moment.
Museveni added that some other people want to invade national parks to grow malakwang, a local vegetable, which is not acceptable.
Moments earlier, he had laid the foundation for the information and tourism centre in Pakwach town council and later commissioned the eclipse monument at the school.
Given the rigorous searches that people were subjected to, the president apologised to foreign viewers for the heightened security measures, saying it was meant to combat terrorism. “Terrorists can use the cover tourism to cause harm to the country,” he said.
The President warned of a host of social dangers and vices such as drug trafficking, child labour and prostitution that can come along with tourism. “We must have mechanisms to guard against these vices,” he said.
CRAFTY WAY: Locals in Nebbi worked hard to seize the business opportunities that the event presented to them.
A WATER-SKY AFFAIR: Expert advise had warned viewers against directly looking at the bright light during the eclipse. One safe way of viewing the eclipse was through water in a basin.
WHATEVER IT TAKES: Every one wanted to catch sight of the much-hyped natural occurence which locals termed as the Battle of the Sun and the Moon.
Uganda, Museveni said, was gifted with unique attributes, saying it is the only place on the Equator, with sunshine and permanent snow.
“That combination is not easy to get in the world. We have sunshine all day around and a lot of rainfall, greenery and permanent snow.
“My appreciation goes to the foreign guests for coming to view the eclipse. I invite you to explore other parts of northern Uganda and other parts of Uganda to experience our legendary hospitality, cultural richness and the natural beauty of the pearl of Africa,” the President said
Museveni added that Uganda is one out of the three places in the world right on the equator with a high altitude.
DUSK TOO EARLY: The Aru King views the eclipse with other local leaders at Owiny Primary School.
SOLAR RING: The moment every one had waited for. Seconds later, it was ring was all gone and an eerie blackness filled the skies for about 50 seconds amid excitement and cheers before the sun re-appeared.
FINALLY: President Yoweri Museveni autographs a soveneir in memory of the hybrid eclipse
Tourism minister Maria Mutagamba described the moment as historic and hailed the Government for its efforts to popularise it.
The area MP, Fred Jachan Omach, said Pakwach was privileged by the occurrence and seized the moment to root for a district status for Pakwach.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Mathias Mugisha, Eddie Ssejjoba, Ekol Joseph, Achilles Mpiima & Godfrey Ojore
Thousands view total solar eclipse in Pakwach