Murchison Falls National Park is Safe

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The media’s interest in writing about the security situation in and around Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) is commendable, but Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is greatly concerned by the journalists’ insistent portrayal of this park as insecure and unsafe for tourists despite measures put in place by UWA and government.

The Daily Monitor’s page 3 story of 19th December 2005 titled, “Army steps up security in Murchison Falls National Park” portrays a full- scale deployment scenario within the national park. The story itself is contradictory and misleading.

The headline implies that the UPDF’s full-scale operations are within Murchison Falls National Park and gives the impression that the park is insecure, and lends credence to the negative travel advisories, which is not the case.

UWA would like to correct the wrong impression created by the said Monitor article. Murchison Falls National Park is safe and secure for visitation by all intending visitors and tourists.

UWA wishes to further remind all journalists that it is our responsibility to manage all the national parks in the country safety and security aspects inclusive. We strongly advise that any safety and security information concerning national parks and wildlife reserves be cross-checked with us or our opinion sought before it is published, aired or televised.

For the record it must be noted that over the recent past UWA working in partnership with other security agencies has implemented measures that guarantee safety and security of visitors, tourists and other resources including investments in the national parks and wildlife reserves. These measures include:

  • Training and deployment (May 2005) of a Special Wildlife and Tourism Force (SWIFT) in all national parks with a mandate to carry out security-related tasks including patrols, intelligence gathering, and security surveillance. SWIFT operations are carried out on a 24-hour basis, especially in the key tourist areas like Murchison Falls National Park.
  • The UWA air wing has been relocated (Dec1, 2005) to Murchison Falls National Park to specifically beef up surveillance and undertake aerial patrols in the northern bank and provide information to the ground and water units for rapid response. The 2 light aircraft now based in Murchison will also undertake operations in Kidepo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. UWA now has 3 well trained pilots operating these aircraft.
  • A tourist police desk has been created at Central Police station in Kampala in partnership with the private sector.
  • The UPDF will continue to form the outer security ring for all the national parks and wildlife reserves as may be necessary on routine basis.
  • UWA will continue to share information on all matters of safety and security in all national parks and wildlife reserves with all the relevant national security agencies in a proactive manner.

As we clarified earlier, Steve Willis was the Proprietor of a campsite called Red Chilli Safaris in MFNP, and not a tourist as the media insist on reporting.

Murchison Falls National Park, and all other national parks, is safe for tourists and tourism programs are going on normally.

The public should therefore take advantage of the 50 percent discount on entry fees has been given to all Ugandans and the 25 percent discount for East African residents (includes expatriates resident in East Africa). At the same time Ugandans and East Africans can also take advantage of a 10 per cent discount that has been given on tourist activities in all the national parks except Bwindi National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

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