EAC Treaty on test as Kenya and Rwanda Breach Tourist Visa Deal with Uganda

Parent Category: Issue
in Issue 4

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
Pin It

By EADM Correspondent and Agencies

Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities Maria Mutagamba.
In Summary: Threats by Uganda to restore its local tourist visa will deal a death blow to the single East African tourists visa system breached by Kenya and Rwanda and may have far-reaching implications on the EAC treaty as it exposes cracks in the regional  integration process.
Mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park are a major attraction for tourists coming to east Africa. Over two-thirds of the these world's endangered species are found in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo, the majority of them reside in Uganda. The restoration of Uganda's local tourist visa could increase tourists to the country. 

Dallas, Texas—Threats by Uganda to restore its local tourist visa following a breach of the single East African tourist’s visa system by Kenya and Rwanda will deal a death blow to the single tourists visa arrangement and may have far-reaching implications on the EAC treaty as it exposes cracks in the regional integration process. The single East African tourist’s visa system, a multi-entry visa costing $100, introduced in February 2014, followed an agreement between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The single visa grants a tourist a 90-day validity period to tour any of the three of the five EAC member countries. Tourism contributes the highest percentage of foreign exchange to the three EAC member countries.  

The chimp sanctuary on Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, on Lake Victoria in Uganda, is a major tourist attraction that could be missing on tourist arrivals.  

However, there are now clear signs that the single East African tourists visa system is collapsing.  Uganda is accusing its partners in the deal; Kenya and Rwanda of violating the agreement because they are issuing their own local visas to tourists instead of the single EAC tourist visa, a clear breach of the spirit of the tripartite agreement. “Since Kenya and Rwanda have not honored the agreement under which the visa system was formulated, Uganda is planning to re-introduce its own local tourist visa,” Uganda’s Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba told news agencies in Kampala recently.

“While we embraced the single EAC tourist visa wholeheartedly, unfortunately, our brothers and sisters in the two countries; Kenya and Rwanda, while they introduced the East African visa, they also maintained their local tourist visa. Otherwise, as Uganda, we have actually been remitting our funds religiously and the other countries are remitting less and the explanation is: they are selling their own visas and not the East African visa", Minister Maria Mutagamba complained.

The Kasubi tombs, the burial place for Buganda kings, is a classic tourism site of 13th century architecture in Africa. This UNESCO heritage site is a leading tourism attraction in east Africa that could be experiencing fewer tourist as a result of the single tourist visa violation.

Should Uganda go ahead and make good on its threats to restore its local tourist visa, it will have dealt a death blow to the single tourist’s visa agreement, a key component and symbolic milestone in the EAC integration process. The fall-out may also expose potential cracks developing in the integration process and stalk suspicions  that could have far-reaching implication on other mega projects including the construction of the standard gauge railway, oil pipeline, the issuance of EAC passports  next year, and other economic initiatives the three countries and the EAC in general are implementing or plan to roll-out.

Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Paul Kagamae of Rwanda have signed several tripartite deals to implement mega projects within the EAC treaty framework. Could the breach of the single east African tourist visa by Kenya and Rwanda undermine such projects? 

Minister Maria Mutagamba said that “the tourism sector is agitated. They say; ‘we must have our own tourism visa as Uganda’ so that we can also get our tourists coming here directly until we agree that we are going to have one tourist visa. They are very upset about the decrease in the number of tourists arrivals in Uganda because all tourists are going to other countries as a result of that unfulfilled or ununderstood arrangement we entered in,” she complains.

Understandably, any disruption in tourists’ arrivals into the country that translates into a steady flow of the much-needed foreign exchange into Uganda is viewed with the gravest concern. The  Minister says that reduction in foreign tourists is one of the reasons for the drop in foreign revenues experienced in the sector.  Yet, tourism is the highest foreign exchange earner for Uganda. Records from the Uganda Tourist Board (UTB), the body in charge of implementing the tourism policy and overseeing the tourism sector indicate that Uganda earned a total of over $ 1.4 billion in 2014 up from $600,000 in 2006. Currently, tourist arrivals into Uganda reached 1.3 million in 2014, up from 600,000 tourist arrivals in 2006.

Mr. Steven Asiimwe, (CEO) of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB). His plans of increasing tourist arrivals from 1.3 million in 2014 maybe affected by the violation of the tourism visa.

A reduction in tourist arrivals, therefore, is negatively impacting the Ugandan economy in a significant way.

The Observer Newspaper in Uganda reported recently that Minister Mutagamba said Uganda had failed to reap benefits from the single East African tourist visa system because the number of tourists visiting the country dropped as a result of Kenya and Rwanda failing to honor their side of the agreement. "That is a problem. In fact it is causing me a crisis in the sector as both tourist arrivals and revenues have dropped,” she said. 

Dr. Andrew Seguya, executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) coping with revenue shortfalls as a result of fewer tourist arrivals.

Indeed, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) earned total revenue of 42.7 billion shillings in the statement of comprehensive income compared with 56 billion shillings realized in the year 2013/14 according to the Auditor General's report of 2014/15. The UWA suffered a deficit of 12.6 billion shillings as opposed to a surplus of 3.72 billion shillings in the previous year, the report states.  

Uganda's Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda to intervene in resolving the tourism visa fallout.

Minister Mutagamba expressed hope that when she takes the matter to the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, the issue will be resolved in favor of restoring a local Ugandan visa to protect the country’s burgeoning tourism industry.



Pin It