USAID donates to tourismThe United States Agency for International development (USAID) has earmarked $20m (about sh50m) to im­prove tourism in Uganda.

The programme will be unveiled in the next few months. The support was revealed by the deputy chief of mis­sion at the USA embassy in Uganda, Virginia M. Blaser.

She said the programme would benefit tourism cultural centres like Igongo Cultural Centre in Mbarara district.
Blaser made the disclosure on Monday after inaugurating a three-dimensional map the embassy funded at Igongo Cultural Centre.

The map, that cost $10,000, will guide tourists who are interested in knowing the history of the area. The team leader of environ­ment and natural resources in USAID Kampala, Suudi Bamulesewa, said the pro­gramme would develop tour­ism related to bio-diversity conservation.

He said they would focus on Lake Mburo National Park and Karinzu Forest Reserve. Bamulesewa said they would also develop Kidepo and Murchison Falls national parks.

He added that they were in the process of identifying partners who would imple­ment the project on behalf of USAID and the US.

Bamulesewa disclosed that they had set aside funds to support entrepreneurs interested in investing in the tourism sector through projects like building hotels to accommodate tourists.

The proprietor of Igongo Cultural Centre, James Tumusiime, said the facility promotes research, people who make handcrafts, musi­cians and singers.

He said it also promotes herbal medicine, forestry and other issues relevant to African history and culture.
Igongo was established three years ago at the site where people used to play music for the King of Ankole.

Buganda KatikiroPrince David Wassajja, Namasole Sizomu, Margret Nagawa and Ministers: Ben Kiwanuka Mukwaya for health, Charles Bwenvu for Buganda Affairs outside Buganda, Hope Mukasa of Kabaka Foundation, members of Lukiiko Mr Gastava Lule and Hajji Mutaasa Kafeero were part of the Katikiro’s entourage that visited Igongo on the 15th February 2014.

The Katikkiro wore a navy blue coat with a white and immaculately white robe traditionally known as “Ekanzu”, a prestigious cultural attire in Ganda culture.

He was received with Enkongooro (Milk Pot), like a special guest in modern days is welcomed with a banquet of flowers. Enkongooro (also call it Ekyanzi) represents Ankole culture. This wooden black conical container is where milk among the cattle keeping communities of Ankole is served. However, for security/safety reasons this milk pot did not have milk in it and Mr Mayiga took it home as a gift.

Mr James Tumusiime the proprietor of the cultural site who is also Chairman Uganda Tourism Board was there to host them. Cultural performances by the Igongo Cultural Group followed before the Katikiro and his entourage were guided through a tour of the place.

Igongo is such a place that depicts history of the man and life right from the Stone Age era.  They visited the Museum (Erijukiro), the main attraction at the centre featuring the historical and cultural aspects of South Western Uganda. It left every visitor mesmerized. The cultural village with huts depicting typical Banyankore homesteads; one for Banyankore cattle keepers and another for Banyankore crop farmers was another wonder.

An overwhelmed Prince Wasajja commented; “I’ve never seen a beautiful, history enriched place like this one.” He added that it’s a challenge not to Buganda alone but all kingdoms to protect their heritage for posterity so that future generations can be able to not only read but also see what the past meant.

The Katikiro then commissioned the Buganda Cottage where antiquities significant to the Buganda Kingdom will be kept for purposes of tourism and research. There is as well Bunyoro, Burundi, Bwera, Karagwe, Kigezi, Rwanda and Tooro Cottages which are yet to be commissioned.

The visitors enjoyed traditionally cooked dishes from “Kahwa Kanuzire” restaurant that sits right next to the Arts and Crafts room where items ranging from traditional jewellery, books, wallets, decorations, table items, armlets, bangles, frames can be found.  Besides the archaic literature of the “Ishe Katabazi” type, even contemporary material like magazines and novels are available.

Mr Tumusiime said Igongo Cultural Centre is a civil society initiative set to link traditional society and the contemporary modern culture. “After realizing that Namugongo Shrines and Kasubi Tombs attract more visitors in a year than either Lake Mburo or Queen Elizabeth National Park, I saw immediately the need for a cultural site as a stimulant for domestic tourism,” he said.

He added, “We should not wait for Europeans to visit so that we call them tourists. Igongo was set up to promote tourism within. So one doesn’t have to be a European to do research or bring their family on a weekend to visit a museum,” he said.

Besides contributing Shs 5million towards reconstruction of Kasubi Tombs, Mr Tumusiime also handed the Katikkiro a shield with a motto “Obwebgye Bugira Emizi” meaning that ‘wisdom has roots’ and a book ‘What Makes an African Laugh’ he has authored urging him to protect the culture jealously.

Mr Mayiga acknowledged Mr Tumusiime’s “sincere” gifts commending the enormous work he has done for culture at Igongo Cultural Centre. “I had visited this place with my family before I became Prime Minister when I had come to attend a friend’s wedding in Rwanyamahembe and I brought my family here but no one recognized me then,” he said.

“When you move through that Museum, you realize how much Buganda and Ankole have in common. The language, ways of life and all this doesn’t have to be destroyed to achieve development. The only place I have been to with rich cultural and traditional information like this is in Rwanda but Igongo was one of a kind in Uganda and Africa at large,” Mr Mayiga said.

He said there is need to respect history and cultures of people but it can only be possible after understanding the histories.