PIC: Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, tourism minister Ephraim Kamuntu and Goefrey Kiwanda being told by Mount Rwenzori guides that having Big Cats (Leopards, lions and cheetahs) in the wilderness enable an eco-balnace necessary for a variety of tourist attractions the country is endowed with. (Credit: Titus Kakembo)
WORLD WILDLIFE DAY
KASESE - Kasese town is peaceful and the tourism industry is recovering, but some sections of the populace are demanding the return of their cultural leader, Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere, if more tourists are to be attracted back in full swing.
This was voiced during the climax of celebrating World Wildlife Day February 4 in Kasese.
Presided over by Prime Minister Ruhankana Rugunda on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, the event had Kasese local leaders beam with smiles to host the day with emphasis on the recovery animal populations, after their drop between 1972 and 1986.
Kasese is enclave of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) and a wildlife sanctuary.
“Tourism is one of the biggest income-earners,” said Rugunda. “The Government has developed the infrastructure which the populace ought to exploit to improve their standards of living. As numbers of tourists increase identify ways through which you can benefit.”
Tourists feed, stay in hotels, are entertained and pay entry fee to access attractions like QENP or climb Mount Rwenzori.
“About 30% of the revenue is remitted to the local government,” stressed Ruganda. “It may appear small but if you guard the peace and the number of tourists increase, you stand to gain a lot more.”
The celebrations had eminent personalities and organisations, which have made significant contributions to Uganda’s wildlife conservation awarded for their efforts.
Kasese leaders expressed pride to join the world to celebrate the day, which is aimed at raising awareness to protect the world’s endangered wildlife species, but used the opportunity to call on the Government to allow their traditional leader back in the kingdom as a vessel of mobilisation.
“Tourism is sensitive to security,” said the Kasese LC5 chairman, Kasese Geofrey Bigogo.
“There is no total peace in the absence of our king. We had a section of the tourists who loved to visit the palace after climbing Mount Rwenzori or visited Queen Elizabeth National Park,” Bigogo said.
He advocated for round table reconciliation talks between the Government and Mumbere in order to enable him add weight on mass mobilisation in health, economic goals and salvaging the Big Cats from extinction.
“Residents’ values are key to sustaining the eco-system,” stressed Bigogo. “Anti-poaching, poverty, literacy, tree planting and development in the Rwenzori region can be speeded up through our traditional leadership institution.”
On the other hand, area MP Robert Centenary deferred, saying Kasese municipality wants development to attain the Vision 2040 goals.
“We may be having different political affiliations, but when it comes to enabling my constituents to live a better life,” said Centenary. “I agree with Ndugu (brother) Rugunda. Those with negative views of Kasese are doomed. We have our eyes focused on a better life for all.”
Bigogo used the opportunity to lobby for compensation for people, whose crops were destroyed by straying animals from the national game parks.
“Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) should speed up compensation of those people whose crops are damaged by wild animals. This is the peasant’s welfare,” he said.
During the occasion a UN co-ordinator, Rosa Amalango, lamented about the declining populations of the Big Cats (lions, leopards and cheetahs) that once roamed the bushes.
“We need their survival if climate change effects are to be mitigated,” said Amalango. “The Big Cats are instrumental in having a balanced eco-system. The women and children are worst hit by the effects of climate change. It is vital to protect forests, swamps and water bodies.”