I just read another article about the “ongoing conflict” in northern Uganda, called Uganda: The Rest of the Story. The author, who I have written to with no response, states in her article that “Clearly — and tragically — the conflict rages on.”
For those of you who have been following this blog, you’ll be happy to hear that this article is not at all associated with Invisible Children. This author, sadly, even did some research and linked to an article about the LRA that she doesn’t seem to have read. I have a feeling she never got beyond the title: Uganda’s LRA killed 2,500 people, abducted 697 children over past 18 months. I can see why she might have been confused by the title, but the article, from The Christian Science Monitor, makes it clear in the first paragraph that the atrocities described happened in Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, and in the third paragraph even mentions that the LRA was “pushed out of Uganda in 2005.”
I realize that there will always be journalists who are up against a deadline and have to put out a story that they haven’t fully researched. So, to approach this issue in a more positive way, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to showing how incredible northern Uganda is, and why everyone should try to get there to explore a bit.
The following are some pictures taken on a road trip with Wildlife Conservation Society and Wildlife Clubs of Uganda that I was fortunate enough to be invited to join. Our basic route was Kampala – Gulu – Adjumani – Arra – Mt. Otzi – Adjumani – Kitgum – Kidepo – Pader – Gulu – Kampala. We did this drive in the dry season and were impressed by the quality of the roads for the whole trip, making it from Arra (near Adjumani) to Kidepo Valley National Park in one day’s drive. I have heard that it is not quite so easy in the wet season, and that it is still not safe to travel the eastern route through Karamojaland. For now, stick with the western route through Kitgum.
Beyond the spectacular landscape, it is wonderful to feel the sense of vibrancy in northern Uganda, as communities and economies rebuild. Expect the tourism infrastructure to expand in the near future, which will make it even easier to explore this part of Uganda. But, don’t wait too long. There is a sense of adventure that comes with traveling through an area before all the infrastructure gets built.
For now, all the main towns have basic accommodation available, and a good hub for exploring the western part of the region is the Arra Fishing Lodge, which is about 30 minutes from Adjumani and just a few kilometers from the Laropi Ferry Crossing, giving you access to Mt. Otzi and the whole West Nile area.
One of the most exciting aspects of the tourism potential in northern Uganda is the 200km stretch of the Nile that is navigable from Murchison Falls National Park to the Sudan border, passing through a number of wildlife reserves and past two of Emin Pasha’s old fort sites. It will just take one savvy investor to renovate an old steam ship and start running multi-day trips on the Nile.
Northern Uganda is no longer a place of war – it is a place of potential. Sure, it still has its challenges, but one of the things it needs most is to be more integrated with the rest of Uganda. What that will take is more people traveling there and seeing it as a living, vibrant part of the country rather than a mythical land of warfare and abductions.
Mark D. Jordahl