There continues to be fallout from Ugandan President Museveni’s s decision to approve new laws in Parliament limiting the freedom of action and speech of the homosexual community in Uganda earlier this year. There has been widespread condemnation from the NGO and political arenas of mostly western nations.
Some individuals such as Sir Richard Branson have been particularly scathing and critical but nothing hurts more than in the pocket. The recent decision by the Managing Director of the World Bank to halt a loan of over 90 million US Dollars which was mostly destined for the tourism and wildlife sector, and specifically the national Hotel and Tourism Training Institute, has been a big blow.
In your correspondent’s view, tourism boycotts can backfire quite spectacularly. The boycott of Zimbabwe from a tourism perspective for almost 10 years did not hurt the political leadership in the slightest but significantly damaged both the economic and social well being of the ordinary citizen of the country. By removing tourists and the chance for them to interact with locals, you further damage the exchange of views and dialogue which is important for individuals for their social and intellectual development.
Uganda is bearing the brunt of fighting Muslim terrorists in Somalia under the aegis of the UN. Uganda pays financially and socially for this massive effort (viz the Kampala bombing in 2010). Uganda needs western support and not its chastisement. Whilst not approving the recent legislation in Uganda (prompted by internal political pressure) a more balanced approach needs to be applied by the West.
Meanwhile in Kenya, another war continues. The ‘War on Poaching’ is never ending. The Kenya Wildlife Service has just approved the use of surveillance drones over the Tsavo National Park Ecosystem. Tsavo is one of the world’s largest national parks and it is hoped that these drones will improve the speed of reaction and deployment of the army and rangers in targeting poachers. Coupled with this high tech approach, new laws have been introduced which will increase the length of jail terms and the fines which are paid by those involved in the poaching trade.
In 2013, 59 rhinos and 302 elephants were killed in Kenya. The numbers this year so far are 18 and 51 respectively. It does not make inspiring reading. Your correspondent’s view is that this is a war which will never be won. Unless you address the demand side of the trade, poaching in significant numbers is likely to continue. Vietnam has overtaken the mantle from China as the prime destination for horn and tusk where gifts of these commodities are highly valued. This is the battleground where there needs to be a global effort to target consumption. Otherwise, these depressing statistics are going to continue.
Letter from East Africa by Nicolas Edwards