By Dennis Katungi

I regard myself as fairly well travelled.  Have I not visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the London Eye in UK and the Statue of Liberty in New York?  I have also savored the Sandy beaches of Barcelona and toured the Bay of Fundy, in Canada.  I cannot list the many wonders of the world I have seen. They are many and it was a privilege, but it’s a shame I know little about my Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.  Last week we sampled Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks.  We were amazed at the beauty, variety of wild game and the breath taking landscapes.

Forget the post card pictures you are familiar with, we got right in the heart of these most popular savanna reserves and sampled forests, wetlands, lakes and saw a wide range of large mammals and primates.  We saw four of the Big Five mammals in Queen Elizabeth.  We had an altercation with an elephant that refused to leave our path and 3 vehicles had to stand still and watch it play its antics until it just decided to move on.  
We found a pride of Lions feasting on a buffalo they had just killed.  They were lazing near the carcass guarding it. It was amazing watching these wild cats at close range.  Soon after, we found a tree climbing Leopard which seemed unbothered about our fuss and clicking cameras as we stopped to have a close view.
Government Communicators Forum (GCOF) had a 3 day retreat at Queen Elizabeth National Park from 11th to 13th of March courtesy of Uganda Wild Life Authority.  The retreat was arranged by the Office of the Prime Minister. In between business, UWA arranged excursions to scenic points - the boat ride on the Kazinga Channel which connects Lake Edward and Lake George was amazing as we sailed watching schools of hippos, buffaloes, crocodiles and a beautiful variety of birds.
   We also visited 6 crater lakes of the many in the area including the famous Katwe salt lake.   
The most accessible part of the park is the open savanna which we sampled in a ride, but we also took a guided walk through the extensive Maramagambo forest stopping at the Bat Cave and the blue Crater Lake deep in the forest named Kamiranjonjo.  Here, our guide regaled us on how pythons and black cobras gather in hordes to feast on the bats at this cave, just that we arrived out of their meal time so we did not witness the spectacle!
To know that as a Ugandan you can be born, raised, schooled, employed and eventually die before sampling the wonders of nature available at home is very sad indeed.  Government and even the private sector should find ways of encouraging Ugandans through affordable arrangements to visit these sites and appreciate the beauty of nature within our own country.  Uganda derives its pet ‘the pearl of Africa’ from these picturesque scenes which remain unexplored by many a citizen.
The Government Communicators Forum is an umbrella body that brings together spokespersons and Public Relations personnel in Ministries, Departments & Agencies of government.  Although approximately 3 years old, GCOF has been jolted into a flurry of activities by two presidential directives that came in early in the New Year in quick succession.  Basing on the Access to Information Act 2005 and the Government Communication Stratety of 2011, the president directed that all Political leaders and civil servants should proactively inform the public about government programmes and avail information as a matter of routine. He also directed that all in the business of Communicating on behalf of government must regularly appear on Radio and Television to explain government policies, plans, activities and programs to the public.  

He further directed that out dated and prohibitive civil service rules and regulations that bar civil servants from interacting and availing relevant government information to the media should be relaxed in order to enhance transparency, accountability and openness.  It is the work of GCOF to work towards implementing these directives and strategies and the retreat was in that direction.   Four of us in the team including Lt Col. Paddy Ankunda, SSP Polly Namaye, John Oyambi from OPM and yours truly wound up the schedule appearing on 2 Radio talk shows in Kasese and addressing a press conference.  
Dennis Katungi – Communications & Media Relations Manager, Uganda Media Centre.