KAMPALA – Looking to attract more tourists, the government of Uganda, through the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) plans to unveil a war museum showcasing colonial-era wars and more recent conflicts.
It will feature a figure many Ugandans would rather not remember — the late president Idi Amin.
Gifted by Nature is a slogan Uganda uses to promote its tourism, especially wildlife, primates, and freshwater lakes. The tourist trade brings in more than $1.6 billion per year, according to new figures contained in a presentation made by line Minister Prof. Eprahim Kamuntu during the NRM manifesto implemantation week.
Now, Uganda plans to join countries such as Germany, Cambodia, Japan and Rwanda as destinations for what is known as dark tourism.
A planned war museum will showcase Uganda’s long history of conflict.
Exhibits will focus on the colonial era, the Lord’s Resistance Army war, and President Idi Amin’s bloody eight-year rule, when as many as 500,000 people were killed in political or ethnic persecution.
An exhibition that is open to everyone is already underway showcasing the timeline of Amin’s leadership and lifestyle as well as providing a unique insight into how Amin’s years in power were experienced by ordinary Ugandans.
Dark tourism is one that involves travel to places historically associated with death and tragedy.
According to (UTB) foreign tourists are increasingly getting more fascinated by ‘dark tourism sites’ all over the world, and Uganda with its turbulent past, some of which has already been popularized by movies and documentaries including the Last King of Scotland, Kony 2012, 27 Guns; can become a favorite destination for this form of tourism.
Whereas to many Ugandans, the topics seem unpleasant, but for Lilly Ajarova, the UTB Chief Executive Officer, they are an opportunity to show that the country has moved on.
She says that Uganda’s tourism is not just about the beauty, the dark past offers a new form of tourism that is getting increasingly popular around the world.
“Dark tourism offers complex and personal stories of those affected. These also act as deterrents so that such events never occur again. Uganda’s history especially during the 1970s gives us a unique understanding of the character that many people – both citizens and foreigners would want to learn from,” she explains.
Adding: “This product has had both national and international demand. In fact there are countries where you go to and Uganda is known because of Idi Amin. Much as that period may have been unpleasant for a number of Ugandans, it is an opportunity to show that the country has since moved on.”
Almost every part of Uganda has suffered some form of conflict or felt its effects in one way or another; some documented while some not at all.
UTB is looking to transform some of these places into memorial sites that can be sold as tourist attractions.
“Every place has its negative past and how people transformed that ugly past to build their future is what sells the place. Take an example of Hitler and Germany, the genocide in Rwanda. These are events that have shaped the future of these nations and promoted them as ideal tourism sites,” notes Ms. Ajarova.
She also disclosed that UTB is looking at partnering with the National Memory and Peace Documentation Center, currently managed by the Refugee Law Project (RLP) of the Makerere Law School so as to profile this product further.