Bickering follows IGCP meeting in Kampala

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UGANDA (eTN) – The Greater Virunga Transboundary Committee meeting took place in Kampala last week, discussing closer cooperation and harmonized policies and responses to the conservation challenges faced by each of the participant members – Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) – Tourism and Conservation, and the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature – all of which share responsibility for the management of natural resources in the Virunga Mountains and their environs.

Among the outcomes was a plan to develop a donor-funded visitor center at Bwindi National Park, prompting an immediate outcry by local stakeholders who projected an alleged web of conspiracy against a local visitor center and cried foul over “unfair competition and selfish interests.”

A Ugandan official who participated in the meeting at the Protea Kampala Hotel last week, however, rubbished the claims, saying those who protested, failed to understand both the concept of the planned center, as well as the intent and positive impact it would have on tourism to the area, and indicated that they need to calmly analyze and study what has been proposed and why.

Gorilla tourism, Uganda’s most visible and globally best-recognized attraction, has in the past elicited heated exchanges between different stakeholder groups in alleged attempts to “redistribute wealth” without, however, changing the fundamentals of existing contracts and agreements already in place. This latest spat only goes to confirm how cutthroat and kneejerk reactions dominate industry relations and debates when new ideas and proposals are floated.