Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A number of international tourists have raised concern about their safety while in Ugandan national parks. This follows the kidnap of US tourist Kimberly Sue Endecott from Queen Elizabeth National Park recently.
Kimberly 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 April, 2. The duo was released on April 7 by their captors who had initially sought a ransom of USD 500,000 (1.8 billion Shillings).
Reports indicate that the kidnappers were given up to USD 30,000 (100 million Shillings) before they released the two.
But the events seem to have sparked fear among a cross-section of tourists according to information obtained from tour companies.
Operators at Ababa Uganda Safaris, Advantage Safaris Africa and Wild Frontiers Safaris Uganda, told Uganda Radio Network that several foreign tourists who booked to come to Uganda are continually calling for an assurance on their safety and security while in the country.
George Ndyomuhumuza, the managing director of Advantage Safaris Africa said 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 said he has not received any cancellation so far, but a number are concerned. He, however, says that this being an isolated case may not have far-reaching effects on the number of tourists coming to Uganda and the tourism sector in general.
“All my bookings are still intact. The kidnap of 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 a similar or even higher number 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.
In response to a question; Are Americans Safe in Uganda in 2019, a mentor in Kabiza Wilderness Safaris observed that Uganda has been safe, secure and stable for years and that fewer tourists have been hurt in Uganda than in the UK, France, USA, even Canada. the mentor added that safe safaris are the norm and not the exception in the case of Uganda.
In response to the same question which was posted on an online portal Kabiza Wilderness Safaris, one of the responders stated 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 businessmen in Kihihi Town Council, Kanungu District.