OPINION– I met a gentleman from Mauritius in Dubai on his way to China and I was heading to India. This was 2019 before the Covid19 pandemic. We stayed together for almost three hours in Dubai airport. We had a long conversation as we waited for our flights time. I was going to attend a tourism event and had had a variety of materials from different tourism government agencies which included Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA), Kigezi Tourism Platform (KTP) and Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC).
I gave him on materials which I had carried in my hand luggage. After a long conversation I invited him to visit Uganda the Pearl of Africa and Gifted by Nature. He told me he would get back to on the issue of visiting my country. He was working in one of the ministries in Mauritius as a senior officer. He was a friendly gentleman and soft spoken. We left as friends and kept our lines of communication open.
One day I reminded him about the visit to Uganda. He replied me and his response extremely humiliated me. He asked me that, “Will I get a good place where to sleep in Uganda”. This was humiliation of the highest order. What I know, even during Amin’s time, Uganda had Sheraton hotel a global brand name of chain of hotels and Nile hotel which hosted African Union during Amin time.
I replied him with touristic polite response. I told him that I shall do whatever will be possible to make his visit historical and memorable. I promised to get him a decent accommodation that will not compromise his health and Security to make him enjoy Ugandan experience. Even sleeping under the tree so long as it will be clean and secure, will give him a story to tell when he gets back home.
I also told him that hotels where the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi stayed when he visited Uganda can accommodate him. In case it will not measure to your expectations, you will try the hotel which Hillary Clinton the former president of USA and his wife used when they visited. But in case you find it not meeting expected standards, you may try the hotel which the Queen Elizabeth used when she was in Uganda for CHOGM.
During CHOGM many presidents stayed in Uganda mainly at Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo which can also be tried to find your taste. In case you find standards still not to your best, we may try the hotel which Ghadafi used when he visited Uganda. I concluded that, there are many good lodges and campsites around National parks which have hosted great men like Bill Gates and others where he can find descent accommodation.
I said all these to assure him that Uganda is ahead of most African countries when it comes to upper market accommodation and hospitality competing with Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia. After my response he got humbled and what followed is another big story.
I have began with that story to paint a good picture of what Bakiga call “Akaana akataratayaya karagira ngu nyina niwe arasingayo kuteeka gye” (loosely interpreted that someone who is not exposed to others, takes what he knows as the best).
Bukimbiri is the newest county/ constituency which was demarcated towards last parliamentary elections. It is not well known to outsiders. People take it as one of the hard to reach areas with primitive people living around the forest with limited exposure outside their area. The true fact is, Bukimbiri is the St Lucia wetland of Uganda. St Lucia wetland park in Zulu kingdom in South Africa is a town in the forest with modern facilities and many whites who visit the area for the most luxurious and fun in it’s fullness.
All roads leading to Bukimbiri whether via Muko or Kisoro are terrible especially during rainy season but this doesn’t stop them from offering best services in Uganda. Most people have a picture that Bukimbiri is closed in by lake Mutanda, lake Murehe and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park making it so remote. There are very few people especially Ugandans who know that Bukimbiri is a hidden treasure with unpolluted primitive culture.
Bukimbiri has the best accommodation in East Africa with camps and lodges owned by Ugandans, South Africans, Germans, British, Dutch etc. Some of the famous lodges and campsites include;- Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Gorilla Safari Camp, Gorilla Heights Lodge, Chameleon Hill lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Camp, Ichumbi Lodge, Karungi camp, Gorilla Resort camp, Gorilla Valley lodge, Nshongi Gorilla Resort, Close Up lodge, Bwindi Backpackers lodge, Wagtail Eco Safari Camp, Clouds Lodge etc . The list is endless suplemented by homestay and camping sites.
These lodges and camps charge between USD 200 to 1500 depending on booking arrangements. There is also accommodation which is affordable that starts from twenty thousand especially in Rubuguri town and Nkuringo. This picture gives you an idea on the lifestyle and the income of Bukimbiri before we explore more economic activities.
Bukimbiri is composed of sub counties of Nyundo, Kirundo, Nyabwishenya and Bukimbiri. There also town councils of Rubuguri, Nkuringo and Nyanamo. Bukimbiri is inhabitated by Bakimbiri (Bakiga), Bafumbira and Batwa who are the minority. Bukimbiri people are too religious and almost 95% are Christian’s. It is dominated by Protestants and Roman Catholics who live in harmony.
The biggest town for Bukimbiri which is Rubuguri, is divided according to religions but living peacefully. The town is divided in two villages, Kashija and Musezero. Kashija village is for Catholics and Musezero for Protestants. Each village has a very big church and a modern school. On Kashija village, there is Rubuguri Catholic parish and Musezero side, there is Ibyaruvumba Achdeconary which is planned to be a diocese in the near future.
Catholics have Rubuguri primary school, the famous music in Kigezi and Protestants have Ibyaruvumba primary and Secondary Schools. These people live peacefully and more united because of community projects which include stretcher groups. These groups are so strong than any institution in the area with bylaws like those of the Roman empire. They have stretcher groups which are more organized with more projects beyond burials.
On these two villages, each has an elder who commands and most respected. Karimunda and Tindikahwa are the most respected elders who are the opinion leaders from these two villages. Other towns in Bukimbiri are Nkuringo and Nyanamo with also many emerging trading centres where people meet for drinks especially on Sundays. People go to Rubuguri mostly on Friday which is the market day and the busiest day in the area.
The people of Bukimbiri requested the president H E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to give them their district, they spoke Rukiga and some services were not provided as expected. Museveni decided to give them a county as the starting point of negotiation. During the last presidential elections, Bukimbiri people were the happiest and voted with a thanksgiving heart appreciating President Museveni.
After demarcation, Bukimbiri registered the highest number of MP candidates who wanted be champions. They started fifteen but seven made it to register for NRM primaries and finished to the end. In the hotly contested elections, Hon. Kwizera Edie emerged the winner. Other leaders in Bukimbiri include Nicholas Hakiza the mayor of Rubuguri Town Council, Asanansio Kajubwami the mayor Nkuringo Town Council and Enos Kakuru the mayor Nyanamo Town Council.
Bukimbiri is a blessed with fertile soils which support all crops. Much as Bukimbiri has a number of community projects, agriculture is the major driving force of the economy. They grow climbing beans, irish, fruits, bananas, vegetables sweet potatoes etc. Timber and furniture is also at a big sale and Kisoro is their main market. Nyanamo which is the centre for irish, it is sold to Kampala while seeds are sold all over Kigezi and beyond.
Bukimbiri is a major tourism destination in Uganda with the highest number of mountain gorilla families. Located in the Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, it recieves tourists around Bwindi more than other areas. There are two tracking areas in the Southern sector, Nkuringo and Rushaga. Nkuringo has about four gorilla families while Rushaga has about 12 families making it the most visited tourism area in Uganda for gorilla tracking.
Some gorillas are under habituation, when ready, they will increase the number of tracking in the Sector. This small area puts in the government Treasury millions of shillings every day. Covid19 pandemic has become a challenge but despite some few tourists still come. Unfortunately they don’t do outside park activities Due to Covid19. Due to the influx of tourists in the area, there is a number of tourism projects which are not in any part of Uganda.
Apart from mountain gorillas tracking, there is Buniga forest walk guided by Batwa, Kafuga pocket forest walk guided by community guides, Bwindi Batwa Forest trail, Rubuguri culture and Batwa experience plus lake Mutanda and Murehe water activities.
Bukimbiri has a number of model lead community projects where the community partners with big development agencies. The most famous is Nkuringo Community Conservation Development Foundation (NCCDF) which is in partnership with Uganda Safari Company to manage the Clouds Lodge one the most prestigious lodge in Uganda operated by South Africans.
The community built a Lodge with an investor. The lodge which charges around USD 500 per night, the community takes a percentage from the bed charges. In the peak season, the community shares big on dollars which makes it one the communities earning from tourism in Uganda.People of Bukimbiri around the forest in Nkuringo and Rubuguri communities formed NCCDF for conservation and development.
The organization has the board, executive board and the general assembly. They have a community parliament which gives the direction to the organization. The same organization is in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority and Kigezi Highland Tea in management of Byamigogo buffer zone. The organization which is in charge of Byamigogo buffer zone, hire it for tea plantation to Kigezi Highland Tea. The company pays the community monthly through NCCDF. Money is used for community Scholarships and other projects including support to their Community Secondary School in Nkuringo.
There is another model organization in the community organization, Rubuguri Diary Farmers Association which was supported by president Museveni dealing with Diary farming and bee keeping. Some of the milk is supplied to milk factory in Kisoro and honey is processed and parked in Rubuguri then sold all over Uganda and beyond through tourists.
The communities are not limited with model projects. Rubuguri Reformed Poachers project, Rubuguri Community Library, Itambira model community farm, Nkuringo Cultural Centreenter etc. Weaving and curving projects are empowering local communities. There is also revenue sharing from UWA, rewarding them as custodians of the national park who face many challenges from the park.
The government shares with the community from the money paid by tourists who visit their forest. Bukimbiri is leading with many Community projects. Communities in Uganda struggling to set up community projects, Bukimbiri has a number of model Community projects which are visible and in production. There is also a model fish farming in the community.
At one point the community had turned to be another London in village when a young girl came from London and established an international Volunteer organization which attracted volunteers across the globe. The number of whites competed with blacks in Rubuguri town. Some whites got married in the local community and initiated other comminnty projects.
The volunteer company known as Big Beyond was sold out to a South African company which failed to manage. It later closed but left the footprints.Bukimbiri has a number of model projects which are far better and we’ll managed suplemented by revenue sharing from the government. The area is blessed with gold and iron ore.
As the a new county which is a constituency planning to develop into a District, it has human resource to continue lobbying for their area. There are elders and young men and women interested to see Bukimbiri as a District helping them to move forward. There are exposed cadres like Isaiah Tumwesigye, Twinomuhangi Geoffrey, Ngabirano Michael, Deus Kakobe, Mandara Byoruganda, Popias Bagyenda, Robert Baker Tumuheise, Nathan Makuregye, Robert Baganda Tumwesigye, Federis Kanyamunyu, Keneth Bigeziki, Hon silver Bahane and many others working to see Bukimbiri great. There are also senior men like John Tindikahwa, Karimunda, John Tumuheirwe, Mucunguzi Stanley etc.
There are also young Politicians highly charged who were part of the team which negotiated for Bukimbiri County and still want to keep promoting the development of Bukimbiri . Asigario Turyagyenda and Tumusiime Izdolo are likely to be smartest politicians in Kigezi. They are among young Politicians to watch in Kigezi sub region. Asigario Turyagyenda contested to take Bukimbiri and lost but has remained heading the biggest community organisation in the area NCCDF, where he can still champion development of Bukimbiri.
Tumusiime Izdolo also contested as the MP for Bukimbiri lost, but he is an entrepreneur with global partnerships in the energy sector, which gives him motivation to keep Politically alert. He was in Kisoro District Council as the Secretary for Health, he will contribute a lot to the development of Bukimbiri using his experience from Kisoro District Council.
The combined efforts of these great men and women will keep Bukimbiri as a model constituency in Uganda.
Robert Tumwesigye Kigezi Research Desktumrobs785@gmail.com+256772509393 /+256700520339