"Despite the huge loss to the tourism sector due to COVID-19, Uganda is ready to revamp tourism, the leading foreign exchange earner."
All pictures by Eddie Ssejjoba
"All protected wildlife areas in our National Parks are safe and secure, and ready to receive tourists," the Minister for Tourism, Tom Butime has declared.
Speaking at the commissioning of Simama Ranger Post in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda, Butime said despite the huge loss to the tourism sector due to COVID-19, Uganda was ready to revamp tourism, the leading foreign exchange earner.
The facility that accommodates Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) personnel is aimed at strengthening monitoring and fighting of illegal activities in the park including poaching.
It is less than 2kms from the DR Congo border where criminals have allegedly used the porous border to sneak into the park and kill animals. The park has over 95 animal species including the famous tree-climbing lions whose population is currently being threatened.
Butime also received a plaque of the building funded by the European Union (EU), together with other partners at Simama and said before the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda was earning 1.6billion dollars annually from tourism and had projected 3billion dollars by 2025.
The head of the EU delegation, Attilio Pacifici, said all the EU ambassadors were committed to supporting the Ugandan government to develop the tourism sector through support to the line ministry, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), and the private sector to make tangible investment attract more tourists.
He, however, said weak laws were still facilitating wildlife illegal activities and making Uganda a target for trafficking.
He called for the strengthening of the laws, saying many precious wildlife species were under threat.
The UWA Executive Director, Sam Mwandha said UWA still needed support to build decent accommodation for all staff.
"Despite the current economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, UWA still has the money to pay salaries for all staff for the next year despite," said Mwandha.
He, therefore, said there was no cause for any employee to fail to perform their duties and added that individuals would be answerable for any illegal activity reported in a particular area.