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Sunday, 20 February, 2000, 18:24 GMT
Tourists urged to return to gorilla park

Mountain gorilla in Rwanda Gorillas are some of the world's best-loved animals


By Anna Borzello in Kampala

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has urged foreigners to return to western Uganda to track the rare mountain gorilla almost a year after a rebel raid in the region left eight foreign tourists and park ranger dead.

Mr Museveni made his comments during a five-and-a-half-hour walk to see the mountain gorillas.

More than 100 Rwandan rebels who crossed from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, attacked forest camps in the Bwindi impenetrable forests in March last year.

The attack which generated huge media attention, also dealt a severe blow to Uganda's tourism industry which relies on foreigners arriving to see mountain gorillas and then staying in the country to tour other popular sights.

Walkabout with a waiter


President Yoweri Museveni President Yoweri Museveni says the region is safe for visitors
Mr Museveni set off along the slippery forest track at 9am.

Dressed in military uniform and carrying a forked spear, the 56-year-old president carefully made his way into the Bwindi impenetrable forest.

He was accompanied by an entourage who included a waiter carrying a cooler of soft drinks.

The president told the BBC that he was making the difficult trek for the sake of his country and in particular so that foreign tourists would be reassured that the region was now safe from rebel attacks.

Uganda also has troops in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where a number of groups hostile to Uganda, including the Rwandan Interahamwe, the Congolese Mai Mai and the Ugandan ADF rebels are known to operate.

Mr Museveni's visit to Bwindi was welcomed by the local community, many of whom depend on tourism to survive.

Tour operators told the BBC that while they were pleased by the president's visit they were still concerned that for as long as there was insecurity in Congo, tourists would be nervous about visiting Uganda's western border.

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See also:
02 Jul 99 |  Africa
Rwanda to re-open gorilla park
02 Mar 99 |  Africa
Uganda tourists die in gunfight
02 Mar 99 |  Africa
Interahamwe: A serious military threat

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