Rude welcome? Uganda tour operators taken unawares


The start of this year`s gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda saw a huge delegation of tour operators drive down to kick off the celebrations in solidarity with their East African neighbors.

Dubbed “Kwita Izina,” the peak of the expo will be the gorilla-naming ceremony on Friday, September 2 2016.

“We have been reliably informed that the delegation of tour operators and hoteliers that left Uganda, arrived safely in the ‘Land of a thousand hills.’ We’ve also been informed that they received an interestingly warm welcome,” said the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) Secretariat.

Or so they thought, for little did they know of the Umuganda, and for those that did know, none of the usually lackadaisical Ugandans knew beforehand that the Umuganda, another ceremony, was to precede Kwita Izina.

“Well, they were taken unawares, and in Rwanda, you choose to participate in this activity or you may be locked up,” added the missive from the Secretariat. Rwanda does not take issues lightly regarding community solidarity, conservation, and cleanliness, which is evident once you enter Kigali.

So this time around, the delegation of Ugandan tour operators and hoteliers was welcomed with a consignment of hoes to join a digging campaign to improve a local community road. The delegation was led by AUTO board chair, Babra Adoso Van Helleputte; Board Chief Executive, Gloria Tumwesighye; as well as the Executive Director of Uganda Hotel Owners Association, Jean Byamugisha, who did the honors.

Held in the rural Nyarugenge District, the activity was directed by the town Mayor in person, Kayisime Ngaramba. Umuganda is a Rwandan word translated to mean “coming together in a common purpose to achieve a common outcome.”

In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends, and neighbors to join them in completing a seemingly tough task, believing that as a team, together everyone accomplishes more within a short time.

Present day Umuganda is described as communal work. It happens every last Saturday of each month starting at 8 AM and lasts for at least 3 hours.

Communities come together to do a variety of public works. This often includes, but is not limited to, the development of infrastructure and protection of the environment.

This activity has taken place each month in Rwanda since February 2, 1974, whereby Rwandese aged 18 and 65 are obliged to join in. Expatriates living in Rwanda are also encouraged to take part as well.

While the main drive for the Umuganda activity is to take on community work, it also serves as an opportunity for leaders at all levels of government to update citizens on important issues in the community, including news and announcements, while problems can also be presented and probable solutions suggested.

Hopefully, the Uganda delegation returns home with lessons to pass on or vowing to return the favor altogether.