UWA Update on Security in Bwindi

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Today, 15th June 2004, The Monitor Newspaper published a story on their front page alleging that there is heavy fighting in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) between the Ugandan army and Interahamwe militias.

The Monitor did not bother to clarify the story with any senior army officers or with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) before publishing this story. Yet it destroys all the successes that have so far been made in reviving Uganda’s tourism industry – an arduous task in itself.

So much effort and planning has gone into shaking off the negative image associated with Uganda during the past years, but the achievements that have been registered by such ceaseless efforts could easily be done away by the wrong impression created by The Monitor story that two of Uganda’s most popular national parks are now experiencing heavy fighting.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority wishes to make it categorically clear to the public and to our partners that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) are very safe, and not anywhere near the fighting taking place inside the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tourists who have been to both parks have also denied witnessing or hearing any fighting inside the parks.

Army spokesman, Major Shaban Bantariza has also made it clear that there was no battle in the national parks. What happened is that a rogue detach of about 15 Congolese entered Uganda to steal food, but then run into a UPDF patrol which repulsed them. It was not a battle at all, and it did not last several hours. This took place near the border, 15km away from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and even much farther away from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The Monitor story has caused panic within the international community, and many tourists who were eager to see the gorillas are now confused. We would like to assure our visitors that there is no problem.

Tourism is Uganda’s second highest revenue earner, and gorilla tourism is providing the bulk of that revenue. At the same time, many tourists have derived much pleasure from trekking and being in the presence of our gorillas. Gorillas are a national treasure.

As the agency responsible for managing all national parks in the country, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) would be the first to implement measures that would ensure the safety of our tourists. UWA calls on The Monitor to undo the damage they have created by running a correction on their front-page tomorrow. UWA will continue to do everything possible to revive the public’s confidence in the two of Uganda’s most popular national parks and calls upon all those who were planning to visit Bwindi and Mgahinga to continue with their plans.

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