Tuesday April 1 2014

Kagulu Hill: the ultimate test to Chameleone’s ambassadorship

Visitors enjoy the beauty of Kagulu hill. The

Visitors enjoy the beauty of Kagulu hill. The hill has a high cultural value for the Basoga and is the highlight of the Busoga Tourism Initiative. PHOTO BY Denis Edema 

By Isaac Imaka

Last week, the Busoga tourism initiative leadership unveiled Joseph Mayanja, aka, Dr Chameleone as Busoga’s tourism ambassador for 2014. It is the first time a Ugandan musician is taking on a tourism promotion campaign.

At the unveiling event held at Parliament, Dr Chameleone— of the Badilisha fame— promised to help bring Busoga to glory through his ambassadorship.
As the celebrity musician settles in his new role, we take a look at the most interesting and fun component of the Busoga tourism initiative (BTI) that many in the region are looking up to return glory to the region—the Kagulu Hill Climbing Challenge— and the reason behind Chameleone’s hiring
The last one was breathtaking, sweaty and muscle gripping—one needed to have had at least two weeks of gym preparation.

It attracted thousands of participants including President Museveni, although he did not go past the hill’s foot.

“Kagulu is one of the several sites the Busoga tourism initiative identified as a flagship for tourism promotion,” said Edward Balidawa, the initiative Chairman and Kigulu North MP. “What we are doing is to emphasise that Kagulu has the potential and we are aiming at promoting the potential internationally and also to local tourists.”

Located in Buyende District, 130km from Jinja, Kagulu is a majestic rock at 3,600ft. This height, for a rock, pushes your adrenaline levels high yet whets your urge to stand to the challenge and find out what lies atop.

From afar, the hill looks like the many rocks that litter Busoga region. But as you approach the hill in the wilderness to Kagulu, the splendour and marvel of an imposing rock disappears into the clouds.

On top of the hill is a splendid sight of waterfalls flowing from the ancient caves and looking yonder the sight of Lake Kyoga at a confluence with River Nile is hard to miss.
The hill is not only famous for its height and the challenge it gives the climbers, but also the caves that acted as sanctuary to the early settlers of the area.
According to Kisoga folklore, the rock is believed to be the first migration and settlement centre in Busoga. It has a historical attachment to the formation of Busoga hence the cultural heritage.

Fireplace stories are full of how Bunyoro kings of yore spent their leisure time on the hill whose caves, the stories go, were discovered around 1686 when Olimi was King of Bunyoro.

Amin’s plan for the hill
On top of the hill is also a concrete structure which, it is said, was constructed by Idi Amin.
It is said that President Amin wanted to build a palace on top so that he could effectively communicate to his people across the Kyoga while having an eagle eye’s view of Teso and Lango. This explains the existence of a communication centre on the hill constructed in 1972.

To enable easy delivery of construction materials to the top of the hill, a concrete staircase was also built which still stands to date — don’t use them during the climb, you will miss the fun and the sweaty challenge.

According to Balidawa, rock climbing is rapidly becoming a popular adventure activity n tourism globally yet in Uganda, the activity is only done on Mt Rwenzori and Mt Elgon.

Apart from rock-climbing, the challenge will this year have bicycle racing, quad biking, camel riding, camping, a trade exhibition and music performances. All will be done in two days from May 9 to May 10—the climbing day.

The first challenge took place on May 11 last year preceding the first ever tourism and cultural expo held in December 2011 at Jinja Senior Secondary school grounds where more than 28 potential tourist attractions were listed.

Among the 20 sites the Kyando site in Mayuge where Bishop James Hannington was killed; the Nhenda Hill in Iganga, the culture site for the Igaga clan and a place where the first agreement between Busoga and the colonial masters was signed; the Nanakoko or Busoga site in Bukoli, the origin of the name Busoga and also where the British Protectorate headquarters were located among others.

Innocent Assimwe, the chairman Uganda Tourism Board describes BTI as “a very good initiative because it strengthens domestic tourism.” He adds: “Any initiative that bases on our internal resources both human and financial to promote tourism in Uganda makes us happy and we support the Busoga tourism initiative.

I urge other different clusters, those in beauty, athletics to emulate what Jose Chameleone has done so that our country’s tourism potential is promoted.”

But why Jose Chameleone?
Jose Chameleone is the current United Nations Peace Ambassador for war-torn areas.
According to Balidawa, it was Chameleone’s initiative to be picked as a tourism ambassador.

“He wrote a letter to the Speaker saying that he has travelled around the world and seen how tourism has led to development and that he wanted to get involved in the promotion of Uganda’s tourism.

“We embraced him because he showed passion,” he said.
But he is not from Busoga therefore the question of whether a Musoga could not be found comes up during the interview.

“We wanted to get someone whose music cuts across all generations. This tourism promotion is not for Busoga only, it is also targeting international visitors from especially the Great Lakes region and Chameleone is popular throughout East Africa and his music is cross generational and cross gender.”

Chameleone’s contract is for one year only and Balidawa explains that he is not getting any payment.
“He will be starting immediately with promoting the BTI’s flagship, the Kagulu Rock by promoting the forthcoming Kagulu Rock Annual Climbing Challenge 2nd edition that will take place from the 9th to 10th May 2014,” read an email from Busoga Tourism Initiative.

As an ambassador, Chameleone pledged to use his musical talents to rally support for Busoga’s tourism including calling up on all his fellow musicians and fans to attend the forth coming Challenge
“Choosing him doesn’t mean we will not embrace other local musicians, they will also be given chance to perform at the different promotion galas and in Kagulu during the climbing but we wanted someone who has popular appeal,” Balidawa said.

Why was BTI unveiled at Parliament?
“The Speaker of Parliament is the patron of BTI and since she is always at Parliament, we thought it easy and convenient that the unveiling is done in her chambers and also the promotion Chameleone will be doing is for the country as a whole not only for Busoga,” Balidawa explains, encouraging all Ugandans to take part.