Busoga Tourism Initiative was recently named the most active tourism cluster by the organizers of this year’s Ekkula Pearl of Africa Tourism Awards. This however surprised many industry players who believe the tourism cluster has hardly been active ever since it burnt its fingers with everything it touches crumbling as soon as it opens.
Busoga Tourism Initiative has kick started tourism projects like Busoga tourism expo, Kagulu rock climbing challenge and Bishop Hannington Kyando martyrs day celebrations. All these projects died in their infant stages.
When BTI’s inaugural activity, the 2012 Busoga tourism expo, failed to have its second baby step before eventually going into limbo, some gave the cluster a benefit of doubt, thinking it was just a failure on its part to attract back its sponsors.
Indeed, BTI bounced back in 2013 with the Kagulu rock climbing challenge, which was massively attended but went down after its second edition of 2014, which was embroiled in a cash bonanza fight.
This followed President Yoweri Museveni’s pledge of Shs100m, which money was handed over to Mr. Edward Kafufu Baliddawa, BTI’s chairman. The money, which was meant to develop Kagulu, apparently was diverted into other ‘things’, sparking off fights that saw the climbing challenge paused to this date. And Mr. Baliddawa’s BTI has never accounted to the people of Busoga how he spent this money.
Amidst strong criticism, BTI was able to soldier on by organizing the 2014 Bishop Hannington, Kyando, which was the second martyrs’ celebrations organized by the cluster. However, even this hit a dead end that very year when it was discovered that Mr. Baliddawa had allegedly forged a land title for Kyando in the names of BTI. There are similar claims about Kagulu.
Insiders at Busoga Kingdom say Mr Baliddawa was chased from Kyando. The same people have threatened to take the former MP to court over Kagulu forged land title. This was unearthed after it was discovered that Mr. Baliddawa had clandestinely registered BTI as a personal company.
Previously, BTI had been started as an association that brings together parliamentarians from Busoga to promote their area as a tourism destination. Its leadership had Speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga as the Patron and Mr. Baliddawa, who was the Kigulu North MP, as the chairman.
However, without the knowledge of the Speaker and Busoga parliamentarians, Mr. Baliddawa went ahead to register BTI as a personal company, adding relatives as other directors.
According to the company file with the registrar of companies, BTI’s directors include Mr. Baliddawa, John Wamulo (Mr. Baliddawa’s uncle), Margret Nandhase (Mr. Baliddawa’s relative), Mawazi Bulagala (Mr. Baliddawa’s relative), Symphony Tours & Travel Ltd (Baliddawa’s company registered with his wife) and Advanced Tours & Travel Ltd (another of Baliddawa’s companies).
This perhaps explains why there has always been a rift between Busoga tourism officials and BTI, with the former preferring to work parallel to BTI activities. In fact, in 2015, when Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) was focused on partnering with regional tourism clusters to develop and promote domestic tourism in the country, it got stuck in Busoga in that an urgent meeting was held on October 21, 2015.
“During the consultative meeting held at Jinja Nile Resort, all stakeholders acknowledged all the work done by BTI and agreed to join this tourism cluster for the development of tourism in the whole of Busoga region, and also endorsed the patron and the chairperson of BTI Hon. Edward Baliddawa.
They made special recommendations as well which included:-
- Choosing an interim committee ofBTI with a representative from each of the following groups (cultural leaders, district leaders, site owners, hotel owners, tour operators, youths, NGOs & women plus Media). Attached is a list of the said committee.
- Holding an annual general meeting so that they stakeholders are officially initiated into BTI.
- Change of the Constitution ofBTI to be all inclusive • They endorsed all the founding members as well.
- All matters concerning tourism development and promotion in Busoga sub region should be channelled to BTI,” reads a letter written by UTB CEO Stephen Asiimwe to the Speaker and BTI Patron.
“This is therefore to request you Rt. Hon to champion streamline the underlying factors so that we can make budgets and work plans for the next financial year 2016 / 2017.”
Members of the interim committee included; Simon Kaita, the Jinja tourism officer to represent district leaders, James M. Mbatia, the manager Mada hotels Uganda to represent hoteliers, Nyesigawe R. Johns of Crater Lakes Safaris to represent tour operators, Bulagala Mawazi, to represent the youth, Namansa Juliet Faith to represent NGOs and women, Moses Zikusoka to represent the media, Chief Waguma Yasin to represent cultural leaders, and Godfrey Yuwju to represent tourism site owners.
The committee managed to have its first two meetings at Nile Resort hotel but after they lost enthusiasm after it became clear to them that Mr. Baliddawa wasn’t willing to change BTI’s constitution and make the cluster all embracing. Instead, he was bent on discussing what activities they can do together. Eventually, members lost morale and began boycotting the meetings.
Since the 2014 Bishop Hannington celebrations, BTI has never held any tourism activity while tourism clusters like that of Buganda, Lango and Ankole have been so active.
BTI’s awarding comes at a time when it just recently undusted itself to launch a travel book called the Best of Busoga. But even the book is under contestation after two Ugandan journalists sued Mr. Baliddawa and BTI for copyright infringement.
Details.In their suit filed on January 24 in the Commercial court, Simon Musasizi and Edward Echwalu claim that Baliddawa didn’t write the book, Best of Busoga, as he claims.