The President's Speech at the Opening of the 39th Africa Travel Association Congress

Tuesday 11th November 2014
President Yoweri Museveni

My first point is a question. Why should birds be more informed than the human beings? I ask this question because in winter most of the birds come from the northern hemisphere to the equator and they stay here for some time. And when it is warm again in the north, they go back.

In the past years, we had no information but now surely we cannot be less informed than the birds. There is a clear complementarity on the globe; some parts of the world are warm, other parts are cold and human beings who live in either zone should try and take advantage of the other zone.

In Europe people go to Mediterranean Coast. I visited some of those destinations like Spain, it is very hot in summer and very humid. I think Uganda would be a better destination than some of those destinations.

Africa is a huge and diverse land mass (30 million square kilometers of land). There are maps which are printed these days, showing the whole of United States, the whole of China the whole of India, the whole of Brazil, squeezed within Africa and then you have spare space for Western Europe.

This is the Africa you are talking about.  Your title is, The Africa Travel Association, in that case you need to know about Africa. It is a huge land mass that is diverse with deserts in the north and in the southwest. Those deserts, however, have got a lot of tourism potential. You have the Oasis in those deserts, where you find very good water and fertile land in the middle of the desert. 

I am glad the Minister from Namibia is here, I visited that part of Namibia, a part of Namibia is a desert but it is a miracle when you go there. It is a desert because there is a cold current coming from the Antarctic flowing north all the way from the cold part of the southern tip of the globe. That current flows north, it is called the Benguella current. If you touch in the water for a few minutes, you would freeze. It is next to Namibia that is why the hinterland is a desert because there is little evaporation of water.  The water is freezing all the time but the cold water brings special fishes from the Antarctica to Namibia. That is why Namibia is very rich in fisheries.

All these parts of Africa are really miracles, like very cold water next to the Namibia coast when Namibia itself is a subtropical country.

Then you come to the huge tropical forests of Central and West Africa; you come to the huge rivers of Africa, the Nile here is the longest river in the world; the Congo River, the Zambezi, the Niger, the Limpopo, the Ruvuma in Tanzania, the Rufigi, the rivers in Ethiopia, there are many rivers. You have the huge lakes like this one here (Lake Victoria) this is the second biggest lake in the world. It is only second to the Lake Superior in the USA and Canada but it is not the only one.  We call it Lake Victoria, because the English came and gave that name to the lake internationally but locally, we call it Nalubaale; the land of the gods. We believe that the gods live there. You have Lake Tanganyika a big Lake between Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, Lake Kivu, Lake Edward. All those have got indigenous names by the way, like Edward is called Rucumu or Butumbi, Lake, Albert is Mwitanzigye.

So you people of the Tourism Board, when you are writing documents you should always put these names in brackets. The real name or the hyphenated, Victoria - (Nalubaale). If you ask many of the people in the rural areas, they don’t know the name Victoria, they don’t know it. Nobody can tell you Nyanja Victoria, nobody can tell you that.

Nyanja is the name for a lake, Nyanja. Nyanza is the Nyanza province of Kenya, because the dialects are different. The dialects of our people and our tribes are different so those people say Nyanza, Here we say Nyanja, others say Nyanza that is why we have got the Kinyanja language in Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi.

You have got the towering snowcapped mountains right on the equator. First of all, the problem with tourism is poor promotion by these groups here.

We have got something we call Tourism Promotion Board, I don’t know whether we should not change the name and call them Tourism Suppression Board. Because like this magazine I looked through, I did not see the Rwenzori Mountains there. You wonder, these people from very far away, they would be very, very amazed to see snowcapped mountains on the equator that is what is interesting for them now. You don’t bring that one up and you bring up some chimpanzees and so on. But I am here to tell these people myself without the aid of this magazine. It is amazing that you have got snowcapped mountains right on the equator. This is amazing for anybody who is interested in or who is curious about nature, you have the Rwenzori Mountains, I think those mountains had about nine peaks with snow. You have the Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; there is Mt. Kenya; the Rwenzori; You have got this miracle of having snowcapped mountains right on the equator.

Among the big lakes, we have got Lake Nyasa, Lake Turkana, Lake Tana -the one in Ethiopia, but above all, like the case of Uganda and some neighboring countries like Kenya, some parts of Tanzania; some parts of Rwanda and Burundi even some parts of Congo even Eastern Congo; we really live in the best part of the world.

I have travelled a little bit, to all parts of the World. And I can tell you there is no place which is better than these parts which I am describing to you- Uganda and these neighbouring territories. Why? Because we are right on the equator but because of the high altitude, we have snowcapped mountains, but even where there is no snow, the climate is very mild- very good for the human beings.

The mistake is these people who come and they build poorly. They exclude air and then bring it in by air conditioning. Why do you do this? If you go to my homes, I do not have air conditioning. Even that State House which belongs to these Ugandans; when I went there I found air conditioning, I shut it. Fortunately, I had had an input in building that State House -The new one. I don’t want air conditioning. I do not need it because God has air conditioned for you. Why do you bother with all these? But when I go to other parts of the world, I find they are trying to cool the air or to warm it. They are fighting either way. And the artificial means of cooling and warming are not good for the human being. They are really very uncomfortable and have nothing to do. But for us here, we do not have to do it.

Like this fellow here who built this hotel, if he had left the windows this side, we would be having very nice atmosphere here. But because they want to imitate those who have got problems, they come and bring problems for us.  When you go outside, the weather is very good. One time as a way of helping the global citizens, I went to America, lobbied and talked to CNN. I asked CNN, why do you misinform people? They put temperatures of different world points on their CNN, even BBC does the same. You see people are roasting in Riyadh, they are being fried somewhere else, they are freezing in some other places. I said, you inform your viewers that there is a place, where people are neither being roasted nor are they freezing. Please just put it.   

Just keep putting Kampala 22˚-28˚ because this area never goes beyond 28˚. You keep informing your viewers. The CNN kept their part of the bargain but BBC, they are not bothered they just frighten everybody - Riyadh 40˚, Moscow -20 now, where does a human being go? But at least the CNN I keep checking they are always showing 22˚,24˚, 28˚ so that people can know where to go. Now this is Kampala here. Kampala is the one they show. But other parts of Uganda like Kabale, it could be like 15% during the day. At night it is much colder. So whatever menu you want of life here is available. There is a little bit of heat also in the North-East in Karamoja. You can go up to 30˚ - 32˚. So if you want to sweat, you go there but also the humidity is low. The temperature is a bit up.

I was looking on the globe, this part of the world, this Uganda, some parts of Kenya, Eastern Congo, North Western Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi; these places are really unique in the world. There is no other place which is like this except one place where I have never been but I see it on the map. There is a country called Ecuador in South America. I think that country, may be, I have never been there but from the map, I think it may be a little bit like these areas here.

Otherwise, I have been to the Philippines. Philippines is - you call it Sauna, where you go to sweat? That Philippines is really a Sauna. This is the one which is on the equator, in Asia. Much of the Equator is in the Ocean if you look at the map. Then it goes to Brazil. That Brazil I have never been there but I hear that it is very humid, Brazil in the Amazon- that’s what I hear. So this patch of land -this Uganda, Eastern Congo, some parts of Kenya, North Western Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi really without bias, totally objective, I would tell you if it was otherwise. It is unique and since you are here. It would be good if you go and inform some other human beings that there is a good place on the globe where you go and have a nice life. All you need is to have a house where you exclude the rain, because the rain is also alot here, have a roof which keeps out the rain and take precautions against mosquitoes. We are killing them but we have not finished them. So put some wire netting in the windows and leave open at night. That’s what I do myself. I never close the windows either during the night or during the day. Because I just enjoy that breeze and the fresh air degrees.

Then there is the history. Africa is the cradle of mankind. All of you here are ex- Africans. Either you are Africans or former Africans who became Europeans and became Chinese and became all that. But you started here. Now if you want, read a bit of Archeology and history. The reason man evolved fast here was because of climatic conditions. Because in the forest it was not easy for those monkeys to become man. They stayed monkeys. But here in East Africa in the rift valley, especially at the edge of the forest; the forests were this side, here you had the grasslands. That’s where those primates started learning how to walk upright because in the forests they were running around climbing trees. They are called brachiators. If you are using your arms to jump from branch to branch, the name is brachiators. But for the primates to become bi-peddle to walk on two legs they need this climate- the grassland climate where you need to stand and see far. That is how people evolved from monkeys to human beings. It was because of climatic and geographical conditions. So please remember that this is the home of all of you - where you came from.

Now when the Chinese went to those cold climates, that’s why they have very small eyes. Because if you go to those very cold climates and you have got big eyes, your eyes will go blind. Like these women in Kampala who have got big eyes. The eyes will go blind. The wind is too cold. So please remember that Africa is the cradle of humanity.  

Africa is also a cradle of three big religions of the world. Moses was here in Egypt. You remember that man Moses. The one who was thrown in the river and rescued by the Queen of Egypt. Jesus, when the Jews wanted to kill him. You remember the other man Herod. When he wanted to kill Jesus, HE was hidden in Africa. Mohammed, when he had problems with his Arabs, he fled to Ethiopia. That is how he survived. Then when he was strong enough he went back and chased the other Arabs who were disturbing him. So this is the Africa we are talking about.

Africa is the cradle of civilization. Civilization started here 6000 years ago. You talk of the Greek civilization, this is yesterday. The Greeks are yesterday. Alexander the Great 330 BC, that is your Greece but Egypt - 6000 years ago. Recently I was in Rome to see His Holiness the Pope and see a few other ruined buildings of the Romans. This is just Before Christ. Julius Ceaser was there just before Christ was born. He was born 2000 years ago but African civilization 6000 years ago. Egyptians were not Arabs, those are Egyptians who did the pyramids. The Arabs came yesterday as you know in your history.

So therefore Africa, the Africa you are talking about is the cradle of mankind, cradle of these modern religions and of course the old ones because the old ones are also still there, cradle of civilization. This is the Africa you are talking about.

Fortunately now, the infrastructure for tourism has grown. We hosted the Commonwealth Heads of State Conference here in 2007. When they asked us to host that conference, a team came from the Commonwealth Secretariat to find out whether people were sleeping in trees or they had accommodation. I said okay, you go around. They said, we need 4500 they call them hotel beds. That is what they call them. I do not know what a hotel bed is. Sometimes you just have to remember these words without understanding what they necessarily mean. So I asked my people and said, how many hotel beds do you have? They said, “as of now, we have got 1500”.

I said okay, you call these businessmen. You know these Africans are rich but they don’t know how to use their wealth. . They are always going to Dubai, China, and you wonder what they go to do there. So I called them, I said, you Africans, these friends of ours need 4500 hotel beds. I don’t know what it means even now, whether it is one bed or one room or what. I just crammed what they told me. So I said, then you help us to build them. We shall build them.

This one (the hotel) was among them. So I said okay, let’s abolish tax on your building materials. So within a year, in the Kampala – Entebbe area, we had 7500 hotel beds within one year.

The Commonwealth people had nothing to inspect and we successfully hosted Commonwealth. By Commonwealth we mean British Commonwealth. Some of the people who are not from that group might not know what we mean by Commonwealth. These are those former colonies of Britain. They are called British Common Wealth Countries they are 55/54 of them. So we hosted that big Conference here and since that time many hotels have been built, so there are now hotel beds. I wish somebody can explain to me what a hotel bed is. Is it a room or a bed?

What if they are two beds in a room, are they one or two? And this is not just in Uganda here. All these countries Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, even countries which had problems in the past like Rwanda, Kigali when I go there, there are hotels there now. So that infrastructure of hotels is there now.

Then of course the next one is that of roads, in case you want to drive, that one is being worked on, some of the tourist want airstrips, airports, because they don’t want to spend a long time. I remember when I was in the University of Dar-el-Salaam in 1960s the then President of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere built the second airport. Oh! He was criticized that time. Oh this is a white elephant with I don’t know what, but Mwalimu was firm. Now whenever you go there to Arusha, that Kirimanjaro airport is now a beehive of planes. It was very correct of Mwalimu to build that airport then because that’s where the tourism circuit is in North-western Tanzania.

Gradually we are building. Like in Uganda here, we are going to build another airport in Kasese, we already have a small one in Kisoro, near those Virunga Mountains, we are going to build another one in West Nile, there is one in Gulu. There is a big airport in Gulu, which can serve Murchison falls, there is a good airport in Soroti, which we want to expand at some stage, so that infrastructure is now there.

The peace is there, when we hear of conflicts in Congo, Somalia etc; you remember that Africa is 30 million square km of land. When there is a conflict in Somalia, it does not affect Zimbabwe, it does not affect Zambia, it does not affect even East Africa. And for the sake of informing your people, in 1970 African had more conflicts or potential for conflicts than today. At that time, southern Africa was under either the colonialists or the white racists in Zimbabwe, in South Africa.

There were wars raging in Mozambique, Angola Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, all that part of the world is now quiet  because there are no wars and they are not likely to be there again, because the big problem which was there was solved; the problem of racism and colonialism. There are still some wars in Congo, Somalia, in the Sahara now, that part near Libya. There are conflicts there, but these do not affect the tourism core which is here in East Africa and Southern African. These National Parks in South Africa, Namibia, in Botswana, those are not affected by those residual conflicts. The big conflicts were these ones between Africans and the colonialists. Those were resolved. These other ones of local leaders fighting for power, those ones will also be resolved. So peace is there, in the core part of Africa where tourist circuits are most developed.

We are also dealing with the ease of travel. Recently we created a one visa for a number of countries; these are Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.  We said please you get one visa. Once you get one, you visit all the others. And for us internally, we shall find a way how to share that little money. Among the three (3) there is some formula how they share it.

The other issue people talk about is health; they are now talking about Ebola. Yes Ebola has been a problem in West Africa because they did know how to handle it. But here we are experts. And this is the problem with Africa. Africans do not exchange experiences because here in Uganda we have had Ebola outbreaks three times and two outbreaks of Marburg and we have stopped them promptly.

Actually Ebola is an easy disease to stop. It is not like influenza, it is not very infectious.   If I have a cold, I can infect all of you here in this room by sneezing but Ebola you must touch that sick person when he is already sick. When he is already having symptoms or infected or a dead body or something like that it’s very easy to stop. And the biggest way of stopping it, apart from having a health system, is political. If there is an outbreak and I am informed at mid-night, by morning I will be on the radio-myself not delegating, not minister of health, not who, no, myself. I go on the radio and tell you that there is an outbreak of this disease, this is very easy to stop.

i), All those who fall sick go and report to the health people,

ii) Do not touch a dead body unless you know what has killed that person.

iii) Stop shaking of hands, I could not be around here shaking and hugging if there was an outbreak here. I could put at the airport “No shaking of hands”. And within a few days Ebola is stopped. Ebola is not a big problem, the problem with West Africa was that they did not know, they did not share our experience with them. That was the problem. Otherwise Ebola is not really a problem.  Ebola is caused by two causes.

There are some of the groups which engage in some cannibalism by eating our relatives -the monkeys. You know those fellows are our relatives; the monkeys the Chimpanzee, the baboons. Those are your relatives, when you look at them they are nearly like us. While some of these groups eat these relatives of ours, it is something we must discourage because that is where the problem comes from.

The second one is actually in a way related to what we are talking about here. The fruit-bats- the bats which eat fruits. If they get a fruit and then someone else also comes and eats it, when they have the virus they can leave it there. Or they urinate on the fruit and you come and you eat without washing it like some of the people in the villages. But those bats have come out of the forests because of the pressure being put on the forest by people invading the forest.  There is a dimension to that which is related to tourism – Conservation. We must be very strict on conservation. Those people who go in the forests, they are not only destroying the forests with consequences that are involved but they are also provoking new problems which have been dormant there for millions of years. Those bats have been staying there, they eat their own fruits, they do not mix with us but now when people invade them, now they also come to the village. So it is part of the problem. The poor conservation, lack of industrialization, where by the peasants invade the forests to get more agricultural land, then in the process destabilize the existing eco system that is part of the problem, but fortunately it is easy to cope with Ebola, if you do the things rightly.

Then in the case of Uganda, as the Minister said we also have what we call Faith based tourism. Ugandans are fanatical. Once they are convinced about something they don’t leave it easily. Now here we had our old religions. And we had no contact with outsiders. It was only in 1851 when an Arab man called Ibrahim, first came to Uganda. That was the first time to see somebody without a black skin. Our people had never seen anybody who was not black. This was the first nonblack person to be seen here in this part of the world – 1851.

Then in 1862 a European man called Hannington Speke came looking for the source of the Nile. That was the first white man that our people saw. Then 1874, another white man called Henry Moton Stanley came and when he went back he wrote a letter in the Newspapers of London appealing for missionaries to come and start preaching here.

So the first Anglican missionaries came in 1877 and the Catholic ones came in 1879 but within a short time,  Ugandans had been converted to Christianity so much so that by 1886 just a few years 1877 -1886  There was a King here near Kampala he tried to say, you people you should not become Christians. They refused, they said, “no, no, no”.

He said, “if you do not stop, I will kill you if you do not renounce Christianity”.

They said, “okay, you kill us, we shall go to heaven”.

So the king went ahead killed I think they were actually many but we were able to count about  55. 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics, I think  there were also a number of thieves because if you add 22 to 23 that’s 45 but the people who were killed were actually 55 so where the other ones. If there was a Muslim or two, I cannot account for the other people in terms of going to heaven. So these people were killed and after that Christianity could not be stopped, it spread.

Now much later, the Pope declared these people Saints. The Catholic Saints I do not know what happened to the Anglicans, do they have Saints or what?

That issue should be sorted out; I can see some religious people here. They can sort that one out. Anyway from the point of tourism, this is a very big tourism for us. On the 3rd of June which is the day for remembering these people, millions of Africans come from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Cameroon, United States, South Africa  they all come here. There are shrines for them; we are trying to improve on them. There are actually two shrines, one for the Anglican and the other for the Catholics. For the Muslims we need to advise them about a shrine also for the Muslims. So it is quite a vibrant category of tourism.

Finally as you have heard, East Africa was the starting point for all human beings. Once we evolved out of monkeys, some of you left, and you are part of the diaspora. The Europeans, the Chinese the Indians even the Eskimos. You know Eskimos? They all left but for us we stayed. You can imagine we people have been here for the last 4 million years. We have never left. We have been here. You are the diaspora, we are the stayees. Now these 4 million years, we have got a lot of knowledge here like cultural foods.

I never eat European food; I never eat Indian foods; I never eat rice for instance except if I am abroad and I have no alternative. I never eat bread and yet you see I am not malnourished. Some of these foods are the richest in life. This is scientifically proven. Like the long horned cattle - the cattle with long horns. If you go to Egypt on the Egyptian tombs, you will see the paintings of the long horned cattle painted or drawn there in BC but there are no longer long horned cattle in Egypt. So which are those long horned cattle which are on those tombs of Egypt? They are here. If you have never seen them, come here and see them.

The foods, I have told you about food like millet. Millet is one of the richest foods in life. It has got protein, carbohydrates and iron. Other foods you hear they are fortifying them. That means they are adding something artificially. Here, these are naturally fortified foods. So they are here, please.

The banana industry; when I first interacted with outsiders, especially those who speak the English language, I thought they were very confused, because they talked of tomato juice. I said it is impossible there is no way you can talk about tomato juice. Juice is a technical term. It is not just a word juice, omubisi, eshande, is clear nectar, whatever you call it. It is from a certain fruit. But when you get a tomato and you mash it- Okuchuchuma, you see the language is very rich-Okuchuchuma to mash. And then you call it juice. I said, no, no you are confused, you know what, you do not know what you are talking about. This tomato is a vegetable. It cannot produce juice. My bias was because of the banana industry here which is unique for this part of East Africa.

For Uganda, Eastern Congo, North Eastern Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi that so when these people go for tours, please when you go to some of these places- the tour operators, you stop on high ground so that they can see the mass of banana plantations or if they want they can go in the homes and take part in the Okunyuuka, okusogola omwenge (How to make the banana juice) because this is unique.

When I was in Dar-el-Salaam, our people in Dar-el-Salaam did not know how to make this juice. So I was sort of a local expert trying to show them how to make juice. And the coastal people the Waswahili walishangaa sana ati waganda ni wataramu kweli(the Swahili people were astonished and said Ugandans are real experts)   They thought I was a big expert but this is just done by everybody in the village - that uniqueness, that unique culture which is not known. We are now trying to modernize the banana industry, to industrialize it the other food industry so that we can share this knowledge with the rest of the world.

With these few words, it is now my honor, to officially open the conference of the African Travel Association.


I Thank You

Follow Us, Stay Connected


Sign up for our Email Updates

Sign up below to get the latest updates from State House Uganda by email.