Link Letter from Simon Challand in Uganda

South Rwenzori Diocese
PO Box 142, Kasese


Greetings from Uganda

Many of you will have heard in the British media of the horrific events in Bwindi National Park about 90 miles south of Kasese. A group of over one hundred armed Rwandan Hutu rebels attacked and burnt down the main tourist camp, a Ugandan conservation officer was tied up and burnt alive and fourteen tourists were taken into the forest. Sometime later six were released but eight tourists, four British, two American and two New Zealanders were hacked to death with machetes. This brutal incident will have many repercussions. Nine people have lost their lives and many others will have been severely traumatised.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one if the last refuges of the endangered mountain gorilla which I had the privilege of seeing just over a year ago. Tourism helps to pay for their protection but it will be along time before it is safe for people to visit again so the gorillas themselves are put at risk. There are economic consequences of this attack - tourism is a major source of foreign exchange for the country and over 70% of the income for the Uganda Wildlife Authority comes from the sale of trekking permits to see the gorillas. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park has been closed for the last twenty months because of the rebel activity, and now the welfare and survival of all the animals in Uganda, only just recovering from the damage done by soldiers in the Obote and Amin years is threatened.

We have enjoyed a considerable degree of peace and security in Kasese over the last six months, and although this is a different group of rebels attacking in a neighbouring district the distinctions are not important. It is a sobering reminder that the men of violence have not gone away and are merely waiting for an opportunity to spread chaos and death again. Kasese is already to some degree isolated from the rest of Uganda and this will only increase that with repercussions in many areas, including trying to recruit health staff for the District and deterring visitors to the Diocese.

Maybe the most significant point about this sad story is that it made headlines around the world and stirred the governments of some of the most powerful nations. Why? Because the victims were white. The truth is that many Ugandans have been similarly abducted and murdered here in the West and also in the North over many years but it is now so commonplace that it may not even make news in the Ugandan press.

Please pray for:
  • The families of those killed and those who survived.
  • The Ugandans who lives have been shattered by the ongoing violence
  • All those who will be economically affected in this already poor country
  • For an end to the violence affecting many areas of Uganda.

Simon Challand
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 1st April 1999