I’m Angry at Uganda | Ben’s Musings

Ben Bressler April 16, 2012 1

Hi Folks,

I generally use this blog as a forum to say what I like, usually spontaneous blabbering about how I love to travel and about the great sights I’ve seen. I usually mention some experience that was particularly meaningful to me (like a stop at an ancient pub somewhere), but likely unimportant to the world at large. I’ll also occasionally touch upon a subject that I think is important, but usually that soap-box stuff is quite a bit less compelling than I think it is. Thankfully, very few people read this blog.

Today, on the other hand, I am going to go a little deeper than usual as I write about an exceedingly beautiful country, one that I am committed to investing in via ecotourism, and one that is home to some of the most captivating creatures in the history of our planet—the majestic mountain gorilla. That country is Uganda, and I am pissed off about it.

You see, Uganda is one of my favorite spots in the world. With pristine rainforests, vast savannas filled with wildlife, and wonderfully welcoming people, Uganda is stunning in so many ways. I can safely say that any traveler would do well to visit Uganda, virtually assuring them that they will return with memories of a lifetime.

Paradoxically, it is also an oppressive place that perpetuates hatred in the form of criminalization of homosexuality. Shockingly, if you are gay in Uganda you may soon face either the death penalty or life in prison. I am not writing today to debate the morals of homosexuality, but its criminalization and the outrageous penalties under consideration seem a clear violation of human rights, and in that regard I believe it is incumbent upon me to make our travelers aware of the other side of this otherwise extraordinarily attractive country.

So here’s my dilemma: If Uganda’s government is unjust and oppressive, why does Natural Habitat Adventures continue to run trips there? Well, the answer is simple: I have spent my working life promoting tourism as a means for positive change, to help build understanding among cultures and to promote conservation.

Rather than encouraging a negative approach, I believe that a more constructive method of change would be one where people from different cultures meet each other and exchange ideas (and dollars), encouraging Ugandans to understand the majority of the western world’s feelings about their government’s proposed legislation. Further, if we boycotted tourism to every place that committed injustices to humans or wildlife, we’d never travel anywhere! For example, the Chinese have oppressed Tibetans’ rights for years, and in Alaska they hunt wolves from helicopters. Injustices are everywhere.

In the end, I cannot tell you what to do. But as a concerned tour operator, it is incumbent upon me to inform you of the issue. If you have considered a trip to Uganda and this is an issue that is important to you, then you’ll have a decision to make: do you go to Uganda, or boycott tourism there? You already know my opinion.

I hope to see you out there!

Ben

P.S. If you feel I have used this forum inappropriately, or if you want to add your thoughts, please feel free to make comments below or send me an email at info@nathab.com.

One Comment »

  1. Bret @ Green Global Travel January 25, 2013 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Kudos for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Ben. Interestingly enough, we’re facing the same dilemma at this moment. We have an opportunity to visit Uganda for a story on GGT, but I feel torn about promoting tourism to a place that oppresses people in such hateful ways. If/when we do visit, I hope we get the opportunity to sit down with some Ugandan people to see why there seems to be so much public support for the government’s policy. I’d like to think the economic promise of responsible ecotourism would outweigh the need to condemn those who live different lifestyles. But who knows?

Leave A Response »