The Easter season is upon us once again. A time for many families to spend some time together away from the daily rat race that keeps us away from our loved ones as we go about chasing that last penny we hope will make our lives a little more comfortable. I travelled to Uganda for basically the same reasons but found the mood disturbed by the sudden directive from the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
According to the folks at UCC, everyone should go and verify their mobile phone Sim card using strictly their national identity cards and they should do this in just seven days. What made the directive disturbing is that many registered their Sim cards more than once and using documents that they were told could include student IDs, Work IDs, Passports, and Driver’s licences. Now only the ID is being considered.
This means that if you hold a Sim card from a Ugandan registered telecom wherever you are in the world, you have less than seven days to fix this. If you have no national ID then you will need a miracle because I doubt it is possible to get one in the few days left. That aside, I still don’t know why at Ugandan border points I am still required to fill in a paper form instead of just having my passport scanned and biometrics verified with their system.
Some of these archaic processes are actually Non-Tariff Barriers to trade and movement of people that should have been scrapped by now. With the Easter season here, my wish is that it is a good opportunity for East African to embrace the call for domestic and regional tourism. I am pleased that since some of us starting singing this song with guidance from the amazing people at the East African Tourism Platform led by Carmen Nibigira, things have indeed changed a lot.
A year ago, the tourism sector in the region was grappling with the a yellow fever outbreak that compelled travellers within the region to acquire a Yellow Fever vaccination card in order to contain the spread of the disease. With hardly any new cases being reported, now would be a good time to review the requirement for travellers to carry one along.
Still on last year, around this time the big story in the regional press was the violence that had broken out in parts of Kasese and Bundibugyo in Western Uganda. This being a hot tourism spot, the violence was even more worrying as it is often such cases that will be used for those condescending travel advisories from our friends in the western world.
With an election coming up in Kenya the reports of violence here and there always get me worried. Worried because I fear that things could escalate further into something worse but also because violence in Kenya easily attracts travel advisories from the west and this affects the region as a whole given that a significant number of foreign tourists access East African via Kenya.
Even without the elections being factored in, the drought induced fighting in some parts of Kenya has proven to be a huge challenge since in some case the wild animals are killed as pastoralists forcefully accessed white owned ranches and conservancies. Tourism has no footing once the security is compromised.
As Rwandans spent time to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi a few cases of genocide ideology related crimes disturbed me. Last week I talked about the people who hacked an innocent cow just because it belonged to a Genocide survivor. Later on, the case of Christine Iribagiza, a genocide survivor who was killed in Niboye, pained my heart even more.
This is all proof that we are not yet where we wish to be as the Rwandan Community. Much as the great people at Rwanda Police have assured us that all is well and that these cases are reducing as the years go, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that we all live in harmony as one big family. It is greatly reassuring again that there was mass participation in the commemorative events held in different place.
23 years may look like such a long time but some hearts are yet to be healed of the pain or the hatred. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that this country heals so we can all live as one big family. Happy Easter to you all.