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It is not like I embezzled funds – Kiwanda

Minister Kiwanda says all the negative publicity has worked in favour of Tulambule. PHOTO BY Isaac Ssejjombwe

TULAMBULE: The state Minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi was perhaps the most hated man on social media last week following news of the Miss Curvy contest and the choice of Anitah Fabiola as the Tulambule ambassador. Lawrence Ogwal spoke to the minister on this controversy and how it got to this.

1.When was this whole Tulambule project born and why is it becoming a big deal just now?

Tulambule started two years ago after I was appointed state minister for Tourism. I came up with four tourism campaigns and Tulambule was just one of the them. The rest were Unlocking Tourism Potential, Twende Uganda, Destination Uganda, which are being handled by International PR firms that are paid $500,000 (about Shs1.8b) per year. Tulambule started as a domestic tourism initiative and the first two years were more into promoting national parks, the second year was conserving environment. This edition was about different individuals telling their stories through Tulambule and Zari was our first ambassador, followed by Anitah Fabiola. We work with people who have a lot of following on social media so that they can reach millions of people.

2.There have been some negative stories about your choice of ambassadors. What criteria do you use to choose these ambassadors?

That was what I wanted. If I had worked with someone who has no influence, then no one would be talking about Tulambule. If you go downtown or even somewhere outside the country, people know Tulambule because Zari and Fabiola are known. Our target is to sell our tourism online, so if there is no noise on social media, then it is pointless. How do we choose the ambassadors? We have a service provider who comes on board and selects who they think can pull numbers on social media in regards to the campaign. I chose Zari in the first editon and this time, it was James Kazoora who brought Fabiola on board. The men are not left out in the campaign because the next Tulambule is going to the north and it will be Gaetano Kaggwa and Patrick ‘Salvado’ Idringi.

3.Some people think that the best people to sell tourism should be the Tourism queens?

During the Tulambule eastern region, if you realised, we went with Miss Tourism Uganda and Miss Tourism Karamoja. The beauty queens have not yet gotten the following to influence the campaign on social media. A good example is during the recent edition where Fabiola outshined all the three queens because she is outstanding.

4.Talking of queens, we heard Miss Africa Quinn Abenakyo had been confirmed for this edition but was later dropped, what really happened?

Brenda Nanyonjo, the CEO of Miss Uganda, told us last minute that Abenakyo was sick and could not travel for Tulambule, so we were forced to delay the project for a bit as we looked for a replacement. I understand Abenakyo not being part of the last edition because she must have been fatigued since the campaign came after she had just returned from China. Whether she attends any editions of Tulambule or not, she will remain our GoodWill Ambassador because she already represented very well at the Miss World contest.

5.Tell us about this Miss Curvy pageant and all the backlash you received.

First of all people misquoted me and said when I was endorsing Miss Curvy, I said it was a pageant meant to use women as a tourist attraction, which is not true. I only said that Uganda has beautiful people who are hospitable and these can make it easy for tourists because we are beautiful and loving. The criticism worked for me. If I am being attacked on misquotes, it is okay… it is not like I am embezzling government funds and.

Also, Miss Curvy is not my pageant and I have never organised a beauty pageant. Unlike other ministries, my office is always open and I welcome young people with their ideas. Miss Curvy would ideally be endorsed by Ministry of Gender but it is never open, so they run to my office.

Who is Kiwanda?

Godfrey Kiwanda was appointed state minister for Tourism in June 2016 and is the elected Mityana County North MP. He attended St Joseph Primary School, Busunju, St Francis Busunju for O-Level, St Francis Mengo for A-Level and Makerere University where he did a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, graduating in 1997. He is 40 years old.

Has Tulambule impacted tourism?
As one of my objectives to create awareness about local tourism, Tulambule has been the perfect campaign and we are getting both local and international tourists visiting these sites.

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