Tourism experts at the just-concluded Africa Travel Association (ATA) have asked Uganda to use the history of its former brutal dictator Idi Amin who killed thousands and its Christian martyrs of the 19th century as a selling point to attract African tourists to the land locked east African country.

The third largest economy in the region, has been struggling to jump start a dormant tourism industry by marketing its wildlife internationally, but from the ATA discussions, the country was advised that it would be difficult to sell Uganda as a Wildlife Safari destination since the neighboring countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda already have an edge in that.
 “It is these … things that will connect with Africans,” The Observer quoted Ikechi Uko, the organizer of Akwaaba African Travel Market in Lagos, Nigeria saying.
 “There is no African who hasn’t heard of Idi Amin. In the same way as Africans go to South Africa to see [Nelson] Mandela and the Apartheid, they will come here [Uganda] to see Amin. You should put up a museum and monuments for Amin.”
Idi Amin Dada, who became known as the ‘Butcher of Uganda’ for his brutal, despotic rule whilst president of Uganda in the 1970s, is possibly the most notorious of all Africa’s post-independence dictators.
Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971 and ruled over Uganda for 8 years. Estimates for the number of his opponents who were either killed, tortured, or imprisoned vary from 100,000 to half a million. He was ousted in 1979 by Ugandan nationalists, after which he fled into exile. He died in Saudi Arabia in 2003.
For the Uganda martyrs, tourism players project that if they are well marketed, they have the potential to turn Uganda into the number one sacred destination for faith-based tourists.
Every June 3, hundreds of pilgrims throng Namugongo to pay tribute to the Uganda martyrs who died between November 1885 and January 1887. While many more were executed across, Buganda and Busoga, those that died at Namugongo remain the face of the group, as their predicament was well documented by the French White Fathers, including Fr Simeon Lourdel.
The Observer quoted Eric Ntalo, the ATA youth chapter coordinator for Uganda, saying the Uganda martyrs are the icing on the cake that can attract religious tourists. He says Uganda has the smallest church in the world, Bethel church, in Nebbi, which seats a maximum of three people.
The country has the second largest mosque on the continent, the Old Kampala mosque whose construction was financed by former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and the biggest church in East Africa, Pastor Imelda Namutebi’s Liberty worship centre, a 15,000 seater.
In addition, Uganda has the only Bahai temple in Africa, and the black Jews (Abayudaya) in Mbale.
 “Faith-based tourism is gaining momentum worldwide. There is a need to draw strategies for faith-based countries such as Italy, Israel, Morocco and Nigeria, among others,” Ntalo noted.
Uko said Nigeria has 30 million Catholics, while 60 per cent of Brazil’s 300 million people are Catholics.
 “If Uganda can get attract a million people from Nigeria and a million from Brazil, plus other countries, it is enough to drive business here,” Uko said.
According to Uganda’s 2013/14 tourism sector annual performance report, the visitor arrivals grew to 1,206,334 in 2013 from 1,196,000 in 2012, but most of them were in the country to visit friends and relatives.

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