American Tourist Kidnapped in Uganda emphasizes that Uganda is a safe country and her kidnap was an isolated incidence.
An unfortunate incidence befell Uganda on Tuesday 2nd April 2019 where 1 American tourist (Kimberly Sue) and the local Uganda safari driver guide were Kidnapped on a late evening game drive. The American tourist who was held captive for nearly five days told “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King she came to see the men who took her as both her captors and her protectors.
In her first interview about the terrifying ordeal, Kimberly Endicott opened up about how she found humanity in the four men who took her and her tour guide hostage and their days-long journey before a ransom payment secured their release.
For days, Endicott and her guide JP Mirenge Remezo had been walking with their captors across the Ugandan border to the more unstable Democratic Republic of Congo.
“And then the sun is setting and we keep walking and it gets to complete, like, pitch darkness,” she recalled. “So, at one point we stopped. And I look up in the sky and I see the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Even in captivity, Endicott remembered how “incredible” the sight was. She used it to connect with the people who took her.
“It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before. And that was when I became very aware of humanizing myself to them … I said, ‘Look at the sky.’ I said, ‘We don’t have this at home.”
She even pointed out the Milky Way to the men. She said it became her “mission” to be human with them so that not only would they see her humanity but it would help her see theirs, too.
“I remember laying down on the ground and I remember hearing JP say, ‘Oh my God,’ at my exhaustion. I don’t know how long I laid there,” Endicott said. “At one point I’m asked to get up. And I turn and look and they’ve made a tent for me out of tarps and a mosquito net, which, I remember that was the moment where I thought, ‘Why are they taking such good care of me?”
Endicott said a “relationship” of sorts began with the young men in the camp.
“I just start talking to them like I’m talking to you,” Endicott told King. “But all the while I’m watching these young men drink water, not from the river, but from a hole in the ground. But they have bottled water for me.”
She ended up feeling compassion for the men, saying, “How could I not?”
“Cause that’s their life. It’s not really above living like an animal. That’s their life. If I survive this, I have a life to go back to. That’s their life,” Endicott said. “That does not condone what they did. Not even close.”
While a search effort was underway, the kidnappers began making calls to the tour company demanding a ransom and giving JP and Kimberly the phone at points in the negotiations.
“I was able to call my daughter once. They let me do that … My daughter’s besides herself,” she said. “Her mother’s been kidnapped. But I’m not beside myself. I’m saying, ‘Okay we can’t, like, we can’t do this now. Let’s get it together. But tell everybody what’s happening. Tell everyone what’s happening. Because I don’t know what’s being done.”
According to Endicott, it was a woman from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority who met her captors. After that, the same woman and a man with a motorcycle then took the two freed captives to safety.
“When we pulled into Ishasha Camp I realized just what my government did for me. And I was overcome with shame for thinking they didn’t do anything. And gratitude like I’ve never felt in my life,” she said.
Even in captivity, Endicott said she was able to find humanity in the men who took her and said they were also her “protectors.”
“They could’ve sold me to a different group. When I went out in the open they had guns that also protected me. It could’ve been so much worse than it was,” she said.
Despite what she went through, Endicott believes Uganda is a safe place to visit, that she was the exception to the rule.
“That was the other thing. That feeling of what this is going to do to that country that is run by their people and those are immensely friendly, accommodating people. And everyone in hospitality after you would have a conversation, the last thing they said to you was, ‘please tell all of your friends to come.'”
“So, when all of this is said and done do you just look at this as a rag-tag team of people?” King asked, to which she replied, “100 percent.”
“Hopefully something beautiful is going to come out of this. That’s where I have to hold my hope.”
Security in Uganda and all of the tourist sites
Through the Uganda Wildlife Authority and security agencies, new measures as well as strict guidelines to avoid similar incidents have been put in place. Security has been tightened in all of Uganda’s national parks for tourists’ safety. Tourists are encouraged to continue undertaking Uganda wildlife safaris and to enjoy wildlife abundance in the Pearl of Africa.
Why tourists should not be scared to safari Uganda
However, Kindly note that this happened in almost an abandoned zone in the far south of Queen Elizabeth National Park (Edward flats) very close to the Congo boarder which is still prone to occasional armed groups. The driver and the tourists in quest for wildlife experience had drove to a distant place where the incident occurred. Kindly note that this kidnapping was an isolated incident and surely Uganda remains safe for tourists.
Even now, tourists are doing game drives in the popular Ishasha sector in the normal areas close to the road and the safaris in upper Queen Elizabeth National Park and other Uganda National Parks are flowing normally with no any safety concern.
With this background therefore, I would like to arrest your fears and re-assure you that your forthcoming Uganda safari tour will be conducted successfully.
What to see/attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in south western Uganda extending from lake George in the north east to lake Edward in south western Uganda connected by the Kazinga channel.
Wildlife at the park is breath taking with about 95 mammal species and some of the most popular ones seen on wildlife safaris in Uganda include, African leopard, African buffalo, Ugandan kob, African bush elephant, Nile crocodile, the lion, the hippopotamus, the water buck, and chimpanzees. There are about 5000 hippos (highest population in Africa), approximately 2500 elephants and over 10,000 buffaloes!
Primates as one of the attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park are about 10 species including the chimpanzees, vervet and the black and white colobus monkey but the most daring of them all is the bold baboon. The big cats like the interesting tree climbing lions, the nocturnal and fiendishly well camouflaged leopard, the civet, genal and several other creatures of the wild are part of the thrilling wildlife encountered on a Uganda wildlife tour.
A lot of wild game will excite the tourist but the tree climbing lions reluctantly enjoying the calmness of the tree branches at Ishasha will captivate lifetime memories. All these animals within one area attests that the park is that haven for your wildlife safari in Uganda.
Birds in the diverse eco system are approximately about 600 species, a phenomenal number for such a small area actually the park has the biggest number of bird species. The confluence of the savanna and forest linking to the expansive forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo which allows the tourist to have a glance at both the East and Central African bird species offer unrivaled Uganda birding safaris in just one destination. There numerous water birds too with key species including the African skimmer, African Broadbill, Martial Eagle, Black-rumped Butonquail, Chapin’s fly catcher, Verreaux’s Eagle owl, Black Bee-eater, White tailed lark and White Winged Warbler.
There’s no need to worry about visiting Uganda because the country is safe for tourists and you will definitely receive a warm welcome. Just always be cautious like in any other destination.