487 newly trained rangers were added to UWA’s ranger force to boost its capacity to effectively protect Uganda’s wildlife resources in protected areas.
The rangers were passed out on September 28, 2018 at a colorful ceremony by His Excellecy General President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Predident of the Republic of Uganda and Commander in Chief of the armed forces at Paraa training Wing, Murchison Falls National Park.
The President commended Uganda Wildlife Authority for building manpower which has led to reduced poaching hence an increase in animal population across different national parks. Let me congratulate Uganda Wildlife Authority for building manpower to protect the parks. I want to also congratulate the graduates. Am happy to note that lawlessness in the parks has been going down for the last thirty years, which has made the number of animals in the park to go up, especially the elephants,” the President noted.
He said that there is need to boost Uganda’s tourism numbers through aggressive promotion of Uganda’s unique attractions adding that the embassies should also play a role in bringing out Uganda’s uniqueness to foreign tourists. He noted that Spain attracts 50 million tourists a year yet it has nothing to show while Uganda with a lot of attractions is only receiving less than 2 million visitors. He emphasized that we should compare Uganda with countries that are doing better in terms of tourism numbers but not those that are in the same category with it because they do not pause any challenge and offer no lessons to learn from.
The president also said he should be availed a plan for fixing the roads so that government can find the money based on the plan. He noted that the Karuma-Pakwach road was made to ease access to South Sudan, but it had also greatly boosted tourism adding that more such roads would be built to ease movement of tourists. He pointed out such roads to include the Ishasha – Katunguru road and the roads around Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks. He also noted that when the national airline is restored, tourists coming to visit the National Parks should not go through Entebbe but land in Gulu for those going Murchison Falls and Kidepo while those going to Mount Elgon and Queen Elizabeth can land in Soroti and Kasese respectively. He said that the airstrips in these places will be upgraded to support tourism.
Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director Mr. Sam Mwandha had earlier informed the President that UGX. 1 billion has been set aside to start on electric fencing as one of the ways to mitigate human wildlife conflict but the whole project require an estimated UGX 50 billion “Our estimate is that we need about Shs. 50 billion to effectively control human wildlife conflicts using the electric fence in the various parts of the country,” he stated. Mr. Mwandha further noted that the recruitment of new staff was a priority set by the new Board of Trustees to ensure all the protected areas are secured in fulfillment of institution’s core mandate. He decried the loss of staff especially to poachers. “Your Excellency, we have lost over 45 staff in the line of duty over the last 20 years. The majority of these were killed by poachers and a few died due to accidents sustained as they protect wildlife,” Mr. Mwandha noted. In response, the President urged UWA to use a combination of approaches that work in order to help communities engage in activities that naturally would keep the animals at bay, like bee-keeping, tea-growing, cultivating red pepper, among others while improving their livelihoods. He asked UWA to come up with a plan for Human Wildlife Conflict management including electric fencing so that government can plan and consider providing support such as the required UGX 50 billion for the electric fence. He also advised UWA to have rules of engagement that guide rangers when they encounter poachers in the national parks and asked to be availed a copy of the same.
The State Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities Hon. Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi noted that tourism numbers have continued to grow with the current tourism visitation now over 1.4 million in 2017. “The foreign exchange earnings from tourism have continued to increase too rising from US$ 375 million in 2006 to US$ 1.3 billion during the same period making tourism the number one foreign exchange earner for Uganda’s economy,” Hon. Kiwanda explained.
The President applauded UWA for acquiring sniffer dogs for law enforcement activities at the airport and expressed happiness that the Uganda Wildlife Act was being amended to provide harsher and deterrent punishments to wildlife offenders. “We need to strengthen the law so that if you go to the park, we put you in jail for long years instead of killing you,” Mr. Museveni said. He revealed that he had instructed Uganda Revenue Authority to acquire and install scanners on all boarder points to detect trafficking of illegal wildlife products and other items transiting through the country.
President Museveni handed over cheques worth UGX 1.9billion revenue sharing funds to six districts neighboring Murchison Falls Conservation Area for the 2018/2019 financial year. Bulisa district got UGX635.4m, Kiryandongo UGX211million, Masindi UGX141.2, Pakwach UGX353m, Oyam UGX176.5m and Nwoya UGX458.9million.
He boosted the UWA SACCO with UGX 100 million to fight poverty and grow staff income. The President also directed the Ministry of Health to build a Health Centre III in Para to serve the workers, the community and the tourists. The LC I Chairperson for Paraa village was facilitated with a motorcycle to support his movement while sensitizing the people on government programs.
The colorful pass out ceremony was witnessed by State Minister for Tourism is Godfrey Kiwanda, Permanent Secretary Tourism Ministry, NRM deputy Secretary General Richard Todwong, UWA Board of Trustees, commander land forces, members of parliament and district leaders among others.
The four months training that was conducted by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in conjunction with the UPDF School of military training Masindi.