Yesterday the Ugandan Wildlife Authority drastically reduced the fee for visiting mountain gorillas. Yesterday 6th term president Yoweri Museveni lambasted the police for being too soft on demonstrators. Get the connection?
I don’t think people realize how bad it’s getting in Uganda. This is in large part because of the clever dictator’s successfully distracting the world’s media by the admittedly draconian “Kill the Gays Bill”. But this has drawn all the attention away from the much greater and more serious human rights violations affected on all Ugandans, increasingly brutal every day.
For travelers heading there now, don’t be too alarmed. Proceed with caution. Keep your eyes on the “Kill the Gay’s Bill” that like flotsam on a dying reservoir won’t go away. See if Museveni actually imprisons all of his opponents, and keep your attention on that rebel rouser, Kizza Besigye.
And especially, keep reading one of the best blogs in Uganda, Mark Jordahl’s Wild Thoughts from Uganda. And hope that Mark isn’t imprisoned like a lot of other journalists.
Today, Jordahl notes:
“Why does a sitting president, who is no longer a member of the active military, wear fatigues to a swearing in ceremony for Members of Parliament? … Does he want to remind people that he can come down on them, at any time, with the full force of the military?”
For tour companies like EWT, and if as an individual you’re now beginning to plan a safari for the future, scratch Uganda off the list.
The Hide is a great camp in what was one of the best wildlife parks on earth, Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. EWT still carries a credit from that camp from our last safari into Zimbabwe in 1999. I’m afraid 2011 has seen our last safari in Uganda.
I can’t remember exactly the straw that broke Zimbabwe’s back for EWT, but I do recall a series of events including growing police brutality that displaced Africa’s beautiful sunsets with red flags: First there was the harassment of journalists. And then the emasculation of other branches of government, starting with Zimbabwe’s until then flamboyant parliament and ultimately killing the judiciary.
And that’s exactly what’s happening, today, in Uganda. It’s a methodically slow and miserable decline.
And the decade which followed EWT’s decision to stop safaris in Zimbabwe didn’t result in any real danger or injury to tourists who still went. But it became increasingly uncomfortable.
At this stage – NOW in Uganda – expect bloody demonstrations, road blocks, crazed police.
And then as the population is subdued the country’s suffering infuses society like lupus: the growing bellies of malnutrition to the long lines of cars at gas stations. For tourists it’s the possibility that gas for your transfer to the airport won’t be available and brunch will be canceled.
Ultimately tourist attractions do suffer. The boreholes so essential to Hwange and other national parks were neglected. Soldiers shot the animals.
We know well how tourists are immune to internal troubles, whether that be Tibet, Nepal or Madagascar. No sides in an internal conflict want to discourage tourists. In fact, tourists become an indication that “everything’s OK.”
And I’ve always believed that travelers should go wherever they want to, wherever their own clever devices can get them. Whether that be Cuba for an American in the 1990s or South Africa under apartheid.
But go with your eyes wide open. Travelers in the future won’t be going to Uganda to see mountain gorillas. They’ll be going to explore a once great society cut to its knees by a maniac dictator.
As Mark warns today to all of us who still love that place: “Uganda needs to be watched closely.”
OMG, you’re not going to take/send people to Bwindi or Mgahinga anymore? I’m so sad. i surely hope you’re sending people back to Zimbabwe. Once again, I think you are going a wee bit too far with your fear-mongering. Caution is one thing. Remember how angry you used to be with State Dept. urging people NOT go to East Africa? Please read the article from Columbia Journalism review to which Cordelia Persen posted a link on her FB page today
Are you saying that clients should not go to Uganda for the gorillas, at this time? I have clients who will be there in July. Is it going to be a problem?
Sylvia, don’t panic… as my blog says above. Yes, there are going to be many problems, but for the time being nothing that ought to disrupt the mechanics of a trip… for the “time being.” But you have an obligation to let your clients know what’s happening. Don’t just use this blog. Get the original source information that I’ve liberally used in the links above. This is information from Ugandans.
Thanks for sharing, Jim. Very disturbing news indeed. So sad to see another country slide into the abyss. (Anna Estes is an elephant researcher in the Serengeti.-JH)
I have lived in Uganda for over 11 years and for the last 2 terms Museveni has been democratically elected in a multi party system, confirmed by thousands of observers from all over the world. Yes, there might have been a few irregularities, but nothing major. The fact is that well over 60% of Ugandans support Museveni. Over the last 15 years Uganda has had an average GDP growth of 6% and lots of investors have come to Uganda creating thousands of jobs.
The opposition leader Bezigye said before the elections that we will not lose without a fight if he does not get elected. As he only received a bit over 20% of the vote and was beaten by Museveni for the third time, he has started organising protests against higher food prices and mainly higher fuel prices, which affects the 20% of the population in the big towns in Uganda, which is also where the opposition gets most of its support. The fuel prices are high because of the war in Libya and general unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, not because of the Ugandan Government. High food prices are actually not too bad for most of the Ugandan population who are subsistence farmers, producing their own food and selling the surplus. The protests mostly a couple of hundred unemployed youth have not effect live in 95% of Kampala at all and are nonexistent in the rest of the country.
The Government has not been handling the situation in the best way possible, but generally Uganda including Kampala is one of the safest big towns in the world, has a free press and is a democratic country. There is no reason not to come to Uganda apart from wanting to punish the general population.
(Ralph is with Banana Boat in Kampala. A major curio outlet for tourists. – JH)
As one who also lives in Uganda most of the time, and was an exchange student in Zimbabwe, living in Harare and working in Hwange right before the fall, I agree mostly with Ralph (although the escalating food prices actually caused much of the uprisings in the North behind the scenes AND have been exacerbated by the problems). NOW is the time to go see Gorillas at a much better price – far away from the capital and its excitement. Now is the time to enjoy the parks in case the country does go south….which it could, but I am not worried all that much, even in Kampala. As always, avoid politics and gatherings on the streets that look like protests, pay attention as you should be doing anyway and have contingency plans ready…..but dont leave yet!
I have lived in Uganda close to 20 years. All I have seen is prosperity and growth in all business sectors. I think people should get their facts right before writing damaging comments.
Yes, Uganda Wildlife Authority did reduce the permits, but not because of the problems and the riots, it is because Uganda decided to join the rest of the tourism world and introduce high and low season rates.
Please take note of what Ralph wrote as those are the TRUE facts.
there’s no need to cause alarm about the level of security in Uganda especially for foreigners. We are still among the most hospitable among east Africans, and are ready to welcome all you tourists traveling down here.
I do work in the travel industry and indeed there’s been a change in numbers of tourists visiting/making bookings for travel this summer just cause of the misinterpretation of what the medias show casing about Uganda.
Please feel free to check out your info sources carefully and call people down here to know whats really on ground.
If i where you i would jump at the opportunity to see the extinct Mountain Gorillas at a reduced price!!!
As Dominic says……….DON’T LEAVE YET!!
I have been disturbed by the negative comments you are making against my country. This is absurd the fact that you have scanty information or being fed on wrong information by wrong elements. I would advise you to be a little more careful as this may tarnish your reputation.
As per your comment on the reduced prices of the Gorilla permits, i have to tell you that this was a humble request that has been put in by tour operators since 2009 due to the economic crunch effects on the industry. Beginning this year, Uganda Wildlife Authority Had revised the fee and wanted to increase the permits to $750. However after consultations and constant lobbying by us the tour operators, UWA agreed to maintain the cost of $500 and reduced to $350 during months of May, June and October as these are low season months.
I request to remind you that this passed even before elections but decided to announce it later for reasons best known to Ugandans.
Yes everyone is aware of the sky rocketing prices of fuel and hence rising food prices but everywhere in the world and worse in the third world countries because of our dependence on foreign grants and the emerging East African markets where consumption of food stuffs from Uganda has increased given the constant production.
Uganda is feeding Southern Sudan, Kenya, Parts of Congo and many food stuffs and vegetables being exported to Europe.
I have been intimated to by a friend in Canada that a litre of Petroleum/gas/fuel is $2 and don’t you think they also have a government???. In Uganda its a little lower than that.
Pliz Pliz Pliz leave your negative comments to yourself and your family. Don’t come to Uganda you are not welcome but leave others who will testify to you that you are wrong!!!!!
For God and My Country!
The lowering of gorilla fees in the offseason has been on the table for consideration for a long time as it makes business sense. The permits are not fully booked offseason.
I acknowledge the points you make about political and governance issues here and their connection to international tourism but to see this decision as the only and clear connection between the two is erroneous.
I myself am looking forward to gorilla tracking later this year which I did not do in the past due to a high price.
I am a Ugandan,Uganda is safe and business is going on as usual, we had protests against the increased fuel and food prices,but amidst the protests i safely went to work every morning so did many other Ugandans. Some protestors were abit violent some times and yes the police handled the situation poorly but Ugandans have now settled down to work.
Its safe for tourists and we are looking forward to a good peak season that will help to put food on the tables of thousands of Ugandans, if some one does not go around falsly alarming the world about Uganda.
(Hilda is employed by Great Lakes Safaris in Kampala)
The state is not bad as indicated above,i live in uganda and work in uganda for now over 25 years.the only fact that every thing is very expensive in the whole world not Uganda only.Though these riots are handled badly but still publics conduct is not good.You have only seen one side of army and police beating up public. BUT there other seen where public is fighting the army and police.So balance scanario Jim and see the way forward but as for now uganda is safe and okey only things are expensive though the price is reducing slightlt at an observable rate
am in Uganda now was born here, I live and work in Kampala. am a travel consultant with Merit Vacations. Surely there is no reason one should cancel his or her safari to Uganda! yes, there are intermittent protests in Kampala due to high food prices, people are reacting like this because it’s been long since they had such a scenario. with this drastic change in the climatic conditions here we have not got much from the fields as usual so this is the moment we really need our tourist to come so that we may have at least a source of income!!
Am a ugandan, staying in kampala the capital city of uganda ,here it is safe now from walk to work protesters because of food and fuel price,it has been raining so theres high production in agriculture,Birds are in prenty both migrants and residents if you vist the country you wont regreat.Not only that Mammals and primates you wont miss in your trip to uganda Icall upon every body to to give us a vist and comfirm other wise the stuation is fine and we are working as usual people are friendly and food is good the country is safe So people do not be confused of any bad stuation in uganda cheers (Matsiko Confidence Tourist Driver Guide In Uganda.)
For sure you have to get facts right.This is very bad news you are trying to let the world know yet it has not water in it , its just such kind of info that goes around and makes thing look bad on the ground.Ugnada is very safe.the the gorilla price they want to show the world its safae . so its by pepole who come and track the gorillas that will in turn let the world know.PLs this shoud stop.
lets get committed to sustainable tourism in africa.
I am also in Uganda and want to second what everyone’s response has been. Uganda is fine. I am extremely impressed with this country on many levels. Continue with your travels and keep informed by the news but also find other blogs like these where locals explain their perspective on the ground.
Its unfortunate that you have decided to write on Uganda the way you have done without sincerity!!
Over all Uganda is peaceful and safaris are running normally with no disruptions!
We witness political turmoil on a daily basis throughout the world. Uganda is, and will continue to be, the Pearl of Africa. It is one of the safest and most delightful countries I have visited. No-one should take the one sided negative comment by Jim too seriously.Only when the Nile flows back into Lake Victoria should you start to worry!
As u have clearly read from the myriad comments, your article is not only baseless and utterly incompetent; but goes to show the sheer disregard that you have for not only the well being of ordinary Ugandans (as your intention, however, disguised is to deprive tourists of an otherwise beautiful experience visiting Uganda) but also for the travel experience of your clients.
Not only is Uganda peaceful and safe, it is also by far the cheapest country in East Africa to visit, a fact that you can attest to as you were here not so long ago. Politics aside, if you had even bothered to conduct any school boy research before spewing forth this rubbish you would have learnt that the food and fuel prices have risen due to factors beyond the control of our economy.
So please as one of the comments suggested feel free to stop any clients of yours (yourself included) from travelling here if you so wish but dont for one second pretend to be some sort of soothsayer and predict the denigration of our beautiful country. leave the journalism to professionals and stick to what you know which admittedly is not much.
This is a shocking submission….are we talking about the same country…..the same Uganda that I live in??? I am a Ugandan, living in Kampala, Uganda. I would like to assure the world that Uganda is safe. Yes, there were protests in Kampala but these are protests that can happen in any city of the world. As of today, they are under control and work is back to normal. The high fuel prices and food prices are not a reflection on our government but of a larger economic crisis in the world. Please make informed and not biased comments.
Come for the inspection trip.
Am tracking in Uganda in July 2011, will i get any problem???
As you can see from the well organized responses from Uganda to my blog of Thursday, those in the tourist industry in Uganda feel quite confident that you will have a problem-free vacation. But as my blog says, I wouldn’t go that far. You’ll be safe. You’ll see gorillas, an experience quite extraordinary. But whether demonstrations in Kampala and the growing tension in the country will somehow otherwise disrupt your plans is unknown. As I said, don’t panic, don’t throw away carefully made plans, but watch carefully. – JH
My comment below was removed from this site, instead of JH apologising for the rubbish he is writing. This is how open minded he is and how he deals with founded criticism! Just forget what he is writing, he has most probably never been to Uganda.
The more I look at the above article, the more I can’t believe that it has been published on a website that is supposed to informing about Africa. There are so many misleading statements and facts that have been totally exaggerated so they have nothing to do with the reality anymore. Starting with the title “Uganda is Dying”, this is total rubbish, Uganda has been doing extremely well over the last 10 years and foreign investment has never been higher than now and generally the population in Uganda has never been better off in the last 30 years. The connection between the reduced Gorilla permit rate being reduced from 500 US$ to 350 US$ was, as mentioned by other contribution, long planed and had nothing to do with the President. The fact is that Uganda has increased the Gorilla groups that can be visited from only 3 groups about 2 years ago to 9 groups by mid this year, as May and June is off season it only makes sense to reduce the rates. This should be very positive news. Come to Uganda now, you will never be able to see the Mountain Gorillas for so little. It would even make sense to reduce the rates over the whole year to attract more visitors coming to Uganda as the Gorilla permit is only a small fraction of the money they spend in Uganda. Museveni is being referred to as a dictator, which is a wrong statement; he has just been elected and received 68% of the vote. It is also not true that poverty has increased in Uganda, the opposite is the case. It is also not correct that Museveni is going to imprison all of the opposition. A few violent protesters who destroyed property, looted shops and attacked the security forces were detained; this is also normal procedure in Europe or America. The security forces have sometimes overreacted, which is very regrettable, but this is not a reason to not come to Uganda. Besigye was arrested for a couple of hours, yes it was very negative that the security forces injured him in the process, but he is a free man and has just been to the swearing in of the Kampala Mayor, who does not belong the NRM Government party and is also a free man. There have been no violent demonstrations since this article was written. It is also not true that there is no fuel available; there is plenty of fuel available everywhere. Food prices have gone up, but this does not mean that suddenly everybody is starving. The pictures are also very negative and only show the violence from the police and not the violence and destruction caused by rioters. It is also not correct that tourism is immune to internal trouble. The slightest small report about any trouble in a country has a huge and immediate negative effect on tourism, the person writing the above article does not seem to have any idea about tourism. Hundreds of tourists have already cancelled their bookings to Uganda. The connection to Zimbabwe also does not really make any sense. The YouTube video might be about Uganda, but again it has nothing to do with the real picture of Uganda; Idi Amin was thrown out of Uganda well over 30 years ago and it shows lots of old army picture, this is not the modern Uganda that I have been living in with some of the friendliest people in the world and great tourism attractions. Idi Amin is still one of the main reasons tourism has never grown to what it should be, as his negative image is still connected to Uganda; that is how long lasting negative press can be! The article above is a total embarrassment, as is not based on truth and has a hugely negative effect on Ugandans, as tourist will believe all the wrong statements and not come to Uganda. Please could somebody publish something about Uganda that is based on facts and is well balanced.
There will be no problem what so ever and Ugandans are incredibly friendly people. Would you not go to London, because there were some protest a couple of weeks ago?
[…] the disintegration of everything that’s good in neighboring Uganda is more bad news. This week’s bit of trouble in the new South Sudan I don’t consider serious, […]
Dear Editor AAM,
I read this article written about our beloved nation with great shock!! i can believe the editor of this forum found it ok to publish such utter rabbish. I dont know how Jim could really think of posting such advice as if he was God. Please people e considerate, otherwise, things might get back to you. We demand a apology as the tourism fraternity in Uganda from the Editors of EcoUganda.com.
Dear friends and colleagues of the tourism industry, please allow me to share the discussion here with some open words.
First of all I would like to say that I do not agree in all facts concerning the head article but I must say: Yes, Uganda is a dying country.
I’m an MD in Uganda’s tourism industry since 7 years and my view of the developments in our country is not that optimistic like the ones of some of you. I wished I could… Why I’m writing that?
The reasons why Uganda is in a sorry state are too many to discuss here but in terms of tourism the most of you know what I’m talking about if I say UWA, NFA, NEMA and others will never succeed the way they are doing their things. Totally corrupt, bottomless greedy, no or no proper planning and actually often just no idea of what is taking place on the ground, that is the reality.
Daily newspapers are showing the sad truth. And in-between of all those government fat-bellies we find corrupt individuals and companies in our own lines. For example, I personally know how some of Ugandan tour operators got their concessions to run lodges within national parks. A very questionable one!!! I do not just talk about Ugandans, no, even foreigners are under them. They don’t give a penny of Uganda’s nature situation and, of course, they are very satisfied with the criminals within the government who offering them success as long they feed the fat bellies. Shame on you!!!
Let me come to the point of wildlife: do you really believe Uganda’s wildlife is healthy? If, you might go to an optician or you better travel the country!!! Our wildlife is under enormous threat, actually at extinction at some parts. Ask your safari guides whether their clients are always satisfied with the amount of animals they saw. An example: in Queen Elizabeth NP from year to year it becomes more and more difficult to find something else then a half-blind buffalo to your left, a couple of water bucks to your right and a herd of kobs in front. Apart from a lot of luck, one has to drive deep into the park to see something like elephants, lions and may be a hyena.
My guides are very experienced but sometimes they totally fail to show anything. Where is that coming from? Are they too stupid or out of knowledge? Definitely not! Poaching, poisoning, spearing, traps and snares, illegal cattle keeping, the explosion of communities within the park, that is the situation today. All those things have a very negative impact and all species are affected. Ask the veterinaries of QENP, they will tell you stories you end up in tears… And what is UWA doing against it? Almost nothing. All you can hear are empty promises, a fact which is reflecting the “way of doing things” of the rest of the Ugandan government.
Did you know that Uganda has not even 300 lions anymore? Lions are always a magnet for tourists. Independent scientists in Uganda estimate a number around 250-260 which is more realistic then the official “cosmetic” figures. And that in a country with has actually so much “space” and such a “big heart” for wildlife. The space is just on the papers (the real size of our parks and game reserves is much less) and there is no heart for wildlife because most citizens had never accepted to share space with animals. And we don’t have to wonder.
The communities barely generate income from tourism. The 20% share of UWA’s income is indeed not going to the people who are supposed to benefit. Go and see how they “benefit”. What you might find is laughable, in other words a shame.
The mentioned situation of QENP is just an example, other parks have the same problems or the situation is even worst. You might see more grazing cows in Lake Mburo NP then zebras or elands. And the client doesn’t understand why. You might explain but clients feeling remains with mixed emotions.
Uganda is indeed suffering and the situation is enormous alarming everywhere, not just in terms of tourism. Continuing the speed of destruction today (swamps are destroyed, forests cut down, bush land illegal cleared, lakes are contaminated etc.), Uganda has not even 10 years and tourism is death. No one comes to see gorillas and chimpanzees fed by rangers because their natural habitat doesn’t provide enough food. No one pays a lot of money just to see 3 old buffaloes and a hand full of antelopes (don’t get me wrong, I like buffaloes and antelopes) because that all what is left in the parks. Nobody visits Uganda just to find ugly iron-sheet-villages in a game reserve.
So, please stop to pretend Uganda is fine, a democracy, the president is such an angel and all that nonsense and bla-bla-bla. Stop blinding tourists with sweet words and false facts. They are often better informed then some tour operators who are just after clients money.
Yes, Uganda is still one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, has a huge variety of flora and fauna, is still safe and definitely worthy to be visited. People here are friendly and relaxed. But the remaining question is ”for how long?”.
Thank you for your attention.
[…] own blog last month about Uganda created enormous interest and many comments, but it appears clear to me […]