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 By Mulengera Reporter  

The Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Tom Butime, has assured the public that Uganda’s national parks are safe to visit because government has continued to prioritise the safety of tourists and communities.

The Minister gave the assurance yesterday while receiving a 12-unit ranger accommodation facility from the European Union (EU) delegation to Uganda to accommodate park rangers in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

He said that security in the national parks has been boosted to ensure that when the country opens its borders to international visitors, their safety is guaranteed.

“I want to use this opportunity to assure the public and the international community that our parks are very safe and secure. The security of tourists in the parks is a high priority for the government and we shall continue to make strategic and operational interventions to ensure that our parks and other recreational facilities are safe for tourists,” Minister Butime said.

He also praised government’s handling of the Covid19 pandemic as unrivalled, something that has made Uganda one of the safest countries for people to visit.

“As a country, we are exemplary in the management of Covid19 with a higher rate of recoveries. Our exceptional performance in managing Covid19, coupled with amazing attractions especially in our protected areas makes Uganda the safest place that should be visited by any person intending to travel.”

He further revealed that his ministry was working together with other relevant Ministries and agencies to come up with a mechanism of opening the country’s borders to allow international visitors into Uganda in a safer way.

On the ranger post, Butime note that it was important to have the outpost in Ishasha given the strategic nature of the area.

“This new Ranger post at Simama is very strategic and key in controlling poaching and other illegal activities in this part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. This area was identified as one of the key hot spots for poaching during the preparation of the Park’s Law Enforcement Strategy a few years ago and for UWA to dominate the area and address the poaching threat, they needed a ranger post, which has now been built,” he explained.

He also observed that tourists to the national park want to feel safe and the existence of an outpost provides that assurance.

The Minister expressed gratitude to the European Union for funding the construction of the ranger outpost and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in collaboration with International Union for Conservation of Nature Netherlands (IUCN NL), for supervising the construction.

EU Ambassador to Uganda Attilio Pacifici handed over the facility to Minister Butime at Simama Ranger outpost in Ishasha Sector, Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Ambassador Attilio Pafici was flanked by ambassadors from Italy, Ireland, Belgium, France, Austria, Hungary and the Ugandan ambassador to the Nordic countries Nimisha Madhvani.

He said the EU is supportive of the growth of Uganda’s tourism sector and they are supporting wildlife protection because Uganda’s tourism is largely wildlife based.

“We know you have made great strides in conserving Uganda’s wildlife and we want to support you to do a better job of protecting the animals in the parks because your country’s tourism depends a lot on wildlife,” Pafici noted.

He further said that ambassadors from EU countries are supporting the quick recovery of Uganda’s tourism sector after COVID-19 so that the country continues to earn the much needed foreign exchange and create jobs for the citizens through tourism.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Executive Director Sam Mwandha thanked the EU and IFAW for the support saying that the facility will motivate the rangers to work harder to ensure that wildlife in the area is protected.

He added that wildlife in all the national parks has been protected and all savannah parks are now open to the public.

The facility will accommodate rangers and facilitate closer monitoring of wildlife, enhance transboundary patrols, including intelligence sharing and strengthening law enforcement capacity. It will curtail illegal activities along the Uganda-DR Congo border.

It was funded by the European Union and supervised by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The facility will ensure the existence of our personnel in the area and enhance operations aimed at fighting illegal wildlife activities.

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