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Travel Safety In Uganda

Uganda tourism backhanded by walk to work campaign

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Apr 22, 2011

UGANDA (eTN) - The stage-managed and, as previously suggested, media-scripted events of recent days in parts of Kampala have now led to the main ring leaders being kept in remand, while awaiting their cases of public order offenses be heard in court after the Easter break. Notably, neighbors and residents of the area, where one of the opposition leaders lives and from where he staged his "walk to work" campaign, have also told him off in a determined fashion, suggesting he takes his political issues elsewhere and leaves area residents alone or else move away so that calm can return to the neighborhood. This did ostensibly not please the man, who angrily argued with his neighbors, letting his fury and anger get the better of him, further denting his already strained relations with people in the very place where he chose to live.

Meanwhile, the international media has picked up on the stream of deceptive and often patently untrue reports sent from Uganda by agitators and propagandists, including several well-known journalists, some of whom are thought to have assisted in the scripting of daily events and were then conveniently at hand to film and record when "spontaneous protests" attracted a response from security organizations aimed to keep the roads open and rowdy "rent a crowds" at bay and prevent them from looting during the melee and diversions they created.

Uganda is fundamentally a peaceful country; it just conducted orderly elections where a clear winner emerged in the person of the incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, beating his main rival by a substantial margin, as incidentally predicted by all opinion polls including those commissioned by the opposition. Having lost at the polls and faced with a more than 2/3 government majority in the new parliament, sections of the opposition then took it upon themselves to resort to incitement and allegedly planned violent gatherings, yet notably several opposition leaders who stood for president have denounced the action and called themselves for calm, exposing the instigators of the present propaganda campaign for exactly what they are. They at least accepted that the present rise in fuel prices, which triggered an acceleration of inflation and hit the ordinary people hardest, was not to be resolved on the streets but by deliberate measures to create more jobs and move forward on domestic oil production and processing.

Many Ugandans walk to work daily, as repeated morning visits to the Clock Tower conclusively prove, and they are neither hindered nor stopped by police and other security organizations. In fact, thousands of them stream into the city every day on foot with a few claiming it is for fitness, while most, of course, cannot afford bus and matatu fares. According to feedback received from a top police office in Kampala, none of those having to walk to work was committing any offense, and not one police officer would find cause to charge them, haul them to court, or otherwise impede their free movement in the city.

Quoting him, although not aware this would be reproduced here, he said: "There are many Ugandans who are struggling to make ends meet. If they cannot afford fares every day, they walk to work. That has long been the case and is not changing in the future. I sympathize with them and in fact many of our own officers walk to their assigned duty stations. The force would never interfere with their freedom of movement, never. But those politicians have turned the daily challenge of life of ordinary Ugandans into something perverted.

"They assemble TV teams at their house and then begin a political demonstration from there. If you want to demonstrate in Uganda you apply for a permit. If the opposition wants to demonstrate, we can give them a permit for a stadium, or the Kololo airstrip (ceremonial parade ground), [and] they can go there and talk and peacefully leave afterwards. But this is not what they want, it gives them no publicity. They want chaos, [to] block traffic, create unrest, and they bring the same crowds every time; known hooligans who loot and steal on the sidelines. It is this we are here to prevent, to maintain order."

A quick chance poll among tourist visitors to Uganda, met in Kampala, showed also that they enjoyed their holiday in the country and were not confronted by nor had they witnessed any of the scuffles, which took place mainly in areas already notorious for "rent a crowd" appearances and not on any tourist itinerary, other than the global media hunting for stories where there are none.

Suggestions, therefore, made in the global media, by bloggers and by tweets, that Uganda is descending into a police state and be mentioned in the same breath as Libya, are without foundation and only driven by the dented egos of a few, who once again failed to impress Ugandan voters and are now in the political cold. Uganda is fine and at peace, while a few clearly are not.

Uganda tourism backhanded by walk to work campaign
Kizza Besigye arrested / Image via

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