A number of international tourists have raised concerns about their safety while in Ugandan national parks following the kidnap of US tourist Kimbley Sue Endecott from Queen Elizabeth National Park recently. Kimbley was kidnapped by four gunmen alongside a Ugandan tour guide, Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo while on a sunset game drive in the Ishasha Region of Queen Elizabeth Park on 2nd April. The duo was released on 7th April by their captors who had initially sought a ransom of $500,000 (Shs1.8bn). Reports indicate that the kidnappers were given up to $30,000 (roughly Shs100m) before they released Kimbley and Mirenge.
Consequently, there is now anxiety with the number of tourists choosing Uganda beginning to diminish. A report by Uganda Radio Network shows that tour companies are already paying the price for this with many receiving fewer reservations and bookings, an indication that tourists are beginning to become apprehensive about coming to Uganda. Operators at Ababa Uganda Safaris, Advantage Safaris Africa and Wild Frontiers Safaris Uganda are unanimous in saying that several foreign tourists who booked to come to Uganda are demanding assurances that their safety and security while in the country won’t be jeopardized.
Advantage Safaris Africa MD George Ndyomuhumuza says that at least 15 foreign tourists had sought the assurance. They all had Queen Elizabeth National Park on the list of attractions to visit. “They have not cancelled their bookings with us but they are concerned about their safety. We told them it was an isolated incident,” Ndyomuhumuza said. Jonathan Oparo, the Managing Director of Ababa Uganda Safaris says he has not received any cancellation so far but a number of would-be tourists have expressed concern. However, he says that the Kimbley incidence being an isolated case may not greatly impact on the number of tourists coming to Uganda and the tourism sector in general. “All my bookings are still intact. The kidnap of the US tourist was the first incident and we are lucky she came back alive,” Oparo said. A senior official at Wild Frontiers Safaris Uganda who preferred anonymity said they received at least 4,000 tourists from the United States of America and Europe in 2018 and they are anticipating doing better in 2019. “Our tourists come from the US and Europe. We have not got cancellations and we shall give information if that happens,” the Wild Frontiers Safaris official said. On whether Americans now feel unsafe coming to Uganda in the aftermath of the Kimbley kidnap, a mentor working with Kabiza Wilderness Safaris observed that Uganda has been safe, secure and stable for years. He says fewer tourists have been hurt in Uganda than in the UK, France and USA or even Canada.
The mentor added that safe safaris are the norm and not the exception in the case of Uganda. Another tourism stakeholder, contributing to an online discussion on the Kabiza Wilderness Safaris portal, observed that; “The Pearl of Africa is one of the safest, stable and secure countries in Africa.” He added that tourists and other visitors to Uganda stay even safer if they follow some safety, security guidelines and tips. At least nine people have been arrested by security forces on suspicion to have participated in the kidnap of Kimbley and Mirenge, a tour guide and driver of Wild Frontiers Safaris Uganda. They include Nahabu, Mani and his wife, Gad Mbonyimbyombi and wife, Maniraguha and wife, Yoweri Mugabo, Akim Kiniga and Denis Kyarisima Boxer. All of them businesspersons in Kihihi Town Council Kanungu District. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.