KAMPALA, UGANDA - Tourism, the world's most traded commodity and Uganda's second foreign exchange earner at $662m behind remittances, cannot be left unattended to as an unregulated sector. The unit of 184 police officers was unveiled last week to protect and ensure safety of all tourists in Uganda.
Uganda Police on Friday 25th January graduated 184 officers to serve in the newly instituted Uganda Tourism Police. Grandaunts have been undergoing a 1 month specially intensive course at the National Police School in Masindi which included tourism laws, regulations and policy, customer care and guest relations, understanding hospitality but also specially targeted techniques like security procedures and concepts, hostage rescue procedures, operational planning and weapons training. Staff from the Uganda Tourist Board and the Uganda Wildlife Authority were among those who delivered lectures and interacted with the officers during their month long training to instill a greater understanding to them how the sector works and interacts with the country’s economy and society at large.
Officiating over the pass-out the Inspector General of Police Lt. General Kayihura said: ‘It is important to develop a Tourism Police to counter the threat of terrorists who might target them (tourists) when they are here’.
The officers will be deployed immediately to key tourism attractions, places of interest regularly visited by tourists but also to key hotels in the city of Kampala in order to boost existing surveillance and monitoring capacity.
The national police chief also announced on the occasion that a new dedicated anti terrorism training school will be set up in the district of Kanungu, which borders the key Bwindi Gorilla National Park and extends to the border with the Congo DR, where land has been secured for that purpose.
Peter Okoshi Simon, commandant of the new force said that for Uganda to benefit from the industry, tourists both local and international should be protected.
“The Tourism Police must work with the sector to ensure that their work is well regulated,” Okoshi said. He added that the Tourism police are supposed to operate throughout the country in the different tourist destinations like the game parks, game reserves, hotels among others.
“The security force should be able to prevent crimes before they happen,” he said.
Tourism stakeholders were swift to extend praise to the government for providing specialist training for these 184 police officers while expressing hope that more such courses would now be conducted in order to boost numbers and allow deployment across the entire country to all areas and sites of importance to the tourism industry.
Last year, the tourism sector was threatened by political protests-the walk-to-work which left 10 people dead including a two year old and hundreds injured as police and protestors forced ends meet. The protests scared the would be visitors who feared for the lives.
Today, the country’s security can be described as stable although the For God and My Country (4GC formely activists for change (A4C)), the opposition pressure group continues to hold rallies addressing issues about the economy. This time around the rallies are to a greater extent peaceful as Uganda police is trying to ensure that they don’t turn violent like the walk-to-work protests.
Uganda, which was the top tourism destination in East African in the 1960s, lost its glory to Kenya due to the many civil wars it had.
The revamping of the tourism sector which started in the early 1990s hit a snag in 1999 when about eight British tourists were killed in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by suspected Rwandan rebels believed to have come from the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Its revival has been ongoing since then, and this has seen a tremendous growth with Uganda now targeting about 1.2 million tourists this year.