Uganda ranks 6th most popular African destination for international conferences

By Edwin Muhumuza

Uganda has been ranked the sixth most popular destination in Africa for hosting international conferences and events in the 2019 statistics report released by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). ICCA represents the world’s leading association for the global meetings, conference and events industry.

The rank is a four point advancement from the 2018 report where Uganda ranked 10th.

Uganda has over the last 5 years ranked consistently in the top 10 African destinations for hosting international conferences and events. The rankings are based on the number of association meetings taking place regularly, rotating between at least three different countries and with 50 participants.

According to the UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova, Uganda in 2019 hosted 22 association meetings including the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentarians Conference, 8th African Population Conference, Africa Now Summit, 4th African Judicial Dialogue and the 2nd Congress of the African Primatological Conference; among others all which attracted a variance of domestic, regional and international visitors and contributed to the rankings that currently place Uganda as a top Meeting and Events destination in Africa.

“In 2020, Uganda had organized and was scheduled to host a number of notable conferences and meetings that had to be rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These included among others; the G77 summit, Africa Climate week, World Health Summit, CBR World Congress and the AfrAA Conference,” Ajarova explained.

She highlighted that many of these conferences have been rescheduled to take place in 2021 pending confirmation of the dates as the COVID-19 pandemic is examined and travel restrictions reviewed.

“As Uganda continues to grow its MICE industry, the next few years will see our association meetings increase as the world normalizes in the post COVID era,” Ajarova said.

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria.

Its abundant wildlife includes chimpanzees as well as rare birds. Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest is known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as hippos.

Hotels send their employees on unpaid leave due to lockdown

By Sania Babirye
Two of the leading hotels in Uganda have sent their staff on leave due to the ongoing COVID-19 Lockdown that has forced them to close business.

These have released notices stating that their employees will receive their April and March salaries but might recieve half salaries in May or not be paid at all.

According to Serena Hotel management, if the Lockdown is not lifted and the current situation doesn’t improve, all its members will be sent on unpaid leave from June until further notice. It further states that contracts of their staff members that expired by March 31st this year will not be renewed.

Meanwhile, Sheraton says all staff members by 1st May will be sent on unpaid leave if the current situation does not change.

Sheraton and Serena hotel have both issued notices to their staff saying since they are not getting clients the said measures will be undertaken until the lockdown ends.

Kitata’s lawyer demands that court acquits his client

By Sania Babirye

Lawyers representing jailed Boda -boda 2010 chairman Hajji Abdullah Kitatta have asked the General court martial sitting in Makindye to acquit kitata of charges of unlawful possession of firearms , ammunition and Military gear.

While concluding their submissions today, the lawyers led by Shaban sanya have told the army court chaired by Lt.Gen.Andrew Gutti that their client is innocent and should be freed on all charges on grounds that prosecution has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove the alleged charges including the required ingredients in the said charges.

According to Kitata’s defense team, the state did not produce any concrete evidence to link Kitata to the recovered golden pistol and an SMG riffle which were allegedly found on him at the time of his arrest in a Hotel room at Vine Tea hotel in Wakaliga a Kampala suburb.

The lawyers stated that prosecution through out the trial, did not provide any evidence from an independent witness out of the four witnesses including any staff of Vine Tea Hotel , footage from a surveillance camera, a ballistic report or an Investigating officer who would have proved beyond reasonable doubt that Kitata was indeed in possession of the guns in the said hotel.

During the trial two out of the four state witnesses including the arresting officer claimed that they had arrested Kitata and also recovered the said items on Kitata from his hotel room.

According to Sanywa, his client’s prosecution is cosmetic and one intended at pleasing the public since parliament had already singled out Kitata as one of the alleged untouchable because he was close to now former Inspector General of police General Kale Kayihura.

Sanywa says his client should be set free since the stated two guns were given to him by police as it was stated by the jailed SIU commandant Nixon Agasirwe .

Sanya also claims that his client Can not be the owner of the alleged guns and army uniforms as stated by the state since by the time of their arrests neither him or his nine co accused were present in the said hotel room and the security agency did not have a search certificate
as they carried out a search at their offices in Lubaga.

Meanwhile the state did not file their response after prosecution’s lead counsel Maj. Rapheal Mugisha asked court for more time to enable him organise his response forcing the court to adjourn the case to the 23rd of April.

Kitata and his co accused have also been further remanded to Luzira prison.

On the 25th of March, the former patron of the defunct bodaboda 2010 group was forced to prematurely ended his defense witnesses failed to turn up in court t to testify in his favor

The summoned witnesses who were meant to appear before the army court were Private Kenneth Okello in charge of Old Kampala police Armory , Sgt. Allan Matsiko who was Kitata’s second body guard and the owner of Vine Tea Hotel where Kitata was arrested on the 22nd of February 2018.

His lawyer had told court that they had issued summons requiring the three to appear in court to testify and convince court that Kitata is innocent and were dully served and received by the police Headquarters at Naguru and Vine Tea Hotel but the alleged witnesses refused to show up.

prosecution also asked the General court martial to remand Kitata back to a civilian prison at Kigo from Makindye Military police barracks where he was transferred due to security reasons and albeit that had been taken on his life while at Luzira prison.

Kitata was then remanded to Luzira prison after the court chair ruled that it’s nearer than Kigo prison and that Kitata will be more safer there since his case is almost coming to an end.

On the 18th of this month, the former commander of the special Police Investigations Unit (SIU) SSP Nixon Agasirwe failed to show any evidence to prove that former IGP Gen. Kale Kaihura ordered that Kitata be given guns for security reasons.

Kitata is on charges of unlawful possession of firearms and army Uniforms. Agasirwe who is also on remand at Makindye military barracks over kidnapping Rwandans and illegally taking them back home appeared before the General court Martial as Kitata’s witness.

This is after, Kitata listed Agasirwe as one of his witnesses to prove his innocence.

He informed the court that it was his former boss, also former Inspector General of police General Kale Kaihura who instructed him to give Kitata three guns and a body guard a one Sowali Ngobi.

He further explained that this was because Kitata had become an informant of police after the 2010 Buganda Riots .

However, when Agasirwe was asked for any proof to show that Gen.Kaihura issued to him instructions or order to issue Kitata with guns, Agasirwe could not show any evidence.

He instead told court that the IGP did not issue any written order but it was verbally issued.

Agasirwe’s testimony follows after Kitata, while defending himself in January this year informed court that he requested security from Gen.Kaihura in exchange for information that would lead to the arrest of criminals and rioters in Kampala .

And as a result, Gen.Kaihura who is also a suspect together with Agasirwe on also charges of failing to protect war materials but out on bail then ordered that a police body guard and guns be given to Kitata to keep him safe as an informant.

However, prosecution is accusing Kitata of illegally and unlawfully being in possession of the said guns for the past eight years since the said guns are only a monopoly of the Army .

On the 7th of January this year, the former leader of the defunct Boda -Boda 2010 began his defense and wore through the Quran to give his sworn in evidence which will give the state a chance to cross examine him on his defense.

He revealed before the seven member team chaired by Lt.Gen.Andrew that he will be producing three witnesses including his driver Ibrahim Sekajja and bodyguard Sowali Ngobi to prove his innocence .

However , these are all charged with Kitata.

Kitata and nine others are charged with unlawful possession of firearms, ammunition and Military attires that state says are a monopoly of the army.

Prosecution led by Maj. Rapheal Mugisha led 4 evidence from 4 witnesses stating that a golden pistol loaded with live bullets was recovered on Kitata during his arrest at Vine Tea Hotel in Wakaliga.

However Kitata through his lawyer Shaban Sanywa, K told court that for the 40 years he has lived on earth, he has never held a gun , live bullets or possessed any military uniforms.

Kitata told court that he came to know about the alleged golden pistol while it was being displayed in court by the state.

He however confessed before court that the pistol and an SMG riffle belonged to his body guard and co accused Sowali Ngobi whom he has listed as one of his witness to prove his innocence

Kitata who has made one year on remand at Makindye military barracks after having his bail application declined then advised the army court to instead ask Ngobi on how the alleged items reached in his car.

He further revealed to court when asked on how he inquired the bodyguard, that that during the 2010 Buganda Kingdom riots , he reached out to his party’s national chairman President M7 for his security concerns who in turn also delegated former police chief Gen Kale Kayihura to assign him (Kitata) a plain clothed police bodyguard .

Kitata denied being a leader or member of Boda -boda 2010 group clarifying that he is only in –charge of 2 offices; one being that of the NRM chairman of Lubaga division and another is that of National Union of Drivers and cyclists and Allied workers Association (NUDICAWA).

And as a result he denied having any connection and knowledge of the Military uniforms and caps that the army says were recovered from the offices of Boda- boda 2010 at Nateete.

While beginning his defense, Kitata narrated to court how he was arrested from a Hotel rest room at Vine Tea Hotel in Wakaliga by CMI operatives .

He told court that on the 20th of January 2018 , he left his home in Najjanankumbi at about 10am and headed for Vine Tea Hotel to meet some people being an NRM leader .

That after the said meeting , he booked into one of the Hotel rooms from where he saw Army officers surrounding the entire Hotel and some knocking on his Hotel room door.

He then urged Lt Gen Andrew Gutti to look at the footage caught on a CCTV camera at Vine Hotel before making his decision.

Hotel owners decry social media taxes

By Wasswa Deo

Members of Uganda hotel owners association are among Ugandans who continued to express their worry in doing business following the social media tax commencement.

Speaking during the official launch of 6th annual Uganda hotels and restaurant expo due to take place, between 6th – 8th September, the executive director of the association Jean Byamugisha has noted that this new tax is going to make the cost of doing business extremely expensive.

According to her, 80% of hotel business in Uganda thrives on social media especially in marketing sector.

The main objective of the Expo is to promote, network and provide that marketing platform for local business investments in hotel, restaurants, tourism among others