Travel advisories fueling the hysteria


The latest anti-travel advisory by Australia against Uganda is almost unprecedented in its language and equally unprecedented by its content and has raised the heat in political and tourism circles in Uganda and prompted demands to immediately revise the misleading statements made. The Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade web site makes the following statements:

• We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Uganda because of the risk of terrorist attack, civil unrest and criminal activity.

• Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

• Recent reports suggest militants may be planning attacks in Uganda, including the capital Kampala. Possible targets include shopping malls, bus terminals and Ugandan government buildings. For more information and a list of potential targets see the Terrorism section below.

• We strongly advise you not to travel to northern Uganda and areas bordering Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because of the serious risk of attacks and abductions by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group.

• We strongly advise you not to travel to Uganda’s far south-west borders with the DRC, including the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Mgahinga Gorilla Park, and the Murchison Falls National Park near the western border with the DRC because of the risk of banditry and attacks by rebel groups.

• We also strongly advise you not to travel to the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda, including Kidepo National Park, because of the risk of inter-tribal clashes.

There is speculation as to what Australia hopes to achieve with their published advisory or if they are fronting for others, considering that both countries belong to the Commonwealth, where a mechanism exist to address concerns in private consultations instead of dragging another country into the proverbial mud, especially when the concerns are only fit for the realm of fiction.

Uganda presently is entering her second year as a non permanent member of the UN Security Council and it is understood from well-versed diplomatic sources, that developing countries in such positions are often pressured to deliver certain voting patterns or else face being taught a lesson in other arenas if they vote with their conscience. Hence, there is very likely a hidden agenda at work, but at a cost for Uganda, should anyone take these speculations contained in the anti-travel advisory seriously.

The latest posting on the Australian foreign ministry’s web site was published on December 29, and when it became known in Uganda and across eastern Africa, it prompted immediate calls to remove the update and use not only better language but to stick to the facts, rather than engaging in political speculation bare of any sound basis.

Showing that what goes around comes around, the Aussies have gotten a taste of their own medicine. India has issued a cautionary advisory for students wanting to study in Australia, following a series of attacks and a recent murder in Melbourne, prompting outcries from down under and assurances that no racist motives are behind the crimes, which Australian police categorized as “crimes of opportunity.” It also appears that Australian acting foreign minister Simon Crean has urged the Indian government to “avoid fueling hysteria.”