Controversy in Uganda Over Road Naming for Slain Tourists

uganda’s government has sparked anger in the nation by announcing plans to name a road after two foreign tourists who were tragically killed earlier this month. The victims, British citizen David Barlow and his South African wife Emmaretia Geyer, were shot dead while on their honeymoon, with their car set ablaze during the attack on October 17, 2023.

Criticism has arisen within Uganda, as some citizens question why the government chose to honor the foreign couple while seemingly neglecting the memory of Eric Alyai, the Ugandan guide who lost his life alongside them.

Authorities state that the couple, hailing from Berkshire, UK, were visiting the Queen Elizabeth National Park to observe gorillas and other primates when they fell victim to an attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamic State-affiliated rebel group that primarily operates in the eastern region of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, despite having a presence in western Uganda.

Minister for ICT and national guidance in Uganda, Chris Baryomunsi, commented on the decision, saying, “As cabinet, we took a decision that for these tourists, we are going to name one of the roads in Uganda after them.” The specific road’s name has not been disclosed.

Regarding Mr. Alyai, the guide, Baryomunsi mentioned that the government would provide support to his family. Mr. Alyai’s family, as reported by the Ugandan television channel UBC, shared that he left behind a widow and a one-year-old child.

However, some Ugandans have argued that a road should also be named after Mr. Alyai. “Eric (Alyai) too was part of this tragedy, and he should be remembered as he died while on duty. It would only be fair,” one Ugandan expressed on social media.

Criticism of the government has extended to the lack of recognition for the many Ugandans who have lost their lives in previous attacks by the ADF. In June, ADF militants launched a surprise attack on a Ugandan school, resulting in the tragic deaths of 41 children.

This is not the first time that Ugandan authorities have faced backlash for their handling of the deaths of the couple and their guide. Last Saturday, the Uganda Wildlife Authority was criticized for posting a photo promoting the Queen Elizabeth National Park shortly after the tragic incident. Some Ugandans found this promotion insensitive and lacking in compassion.

Daniel Kawuma, a Ugandan human rights activist, condemned the authorities’ actions, stating, “The callousness and lack of humanity displayed by those responsible for orchestrating this insensitive campaign is a shame for our country. It is deeply troubling how you use the scene of such a gruesome killing and post messages of an ‘exciting morning’ for tourists. It is incomprehensible how you could mock the victims and their grieving families by circulating happy photos of Queen Elizabeth before the bodies have even been laid to rest.”

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