Uganda has a special police for tourists

map of UgandaA unit of hundreds of police officers is responsible for the protection and security of all tourists in Uganda. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the need for a Tourism Police force came as a result of several complaints about tourists losing property to motor cycle riders (boda boda), tour operators, tour guides and some getting mugged in hotels. “We want to make sure that under the Justice Sector, cases involving tourists are hurriedly disposed off before they return home. This will save Uganda a bad image to the outside world,” says a spokesman for the Ministry.

But the special task force also has a broader perspective. “The tourism police is important because it counters threats of terrorists who might want to target tourists when they are in the country,” police spokesman Patrick Onyango told AFP, as the first officers entered into service. “The tourism police is almost a stand alone force, but under the remit of counter-terrorism unit. The force has been deployed in areas visited by tourists like the national parks, tourism sites and major hotels.”

The point of view is that 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. Mr. Amos Wekesa, the president of the Uganda Tourist Association, said Uganda can earn up to $5b from tourism attractions like River Nile, if it’s well marketed. “Egypt earns about $3b from the Nile alone. But in Uganda, where we have the Source of the Nile, nothing is got from the river,” stressed Wekesa before calling for an emergency tourism marketing budget for Uganda.

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 1990’s 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 has seen a tremendous growth with Uganda now targeting about 1.2 million tourists.

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