A joint team of security personnel have rescued Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo and Kimberly Sue Endecot.
Mirenge is a senior tour guide with Wild Frontiers Uganda while Endecott is a 35-year-old American tourist,
The two were abducted during a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park by four gun wielding men on Tuesday.
Martin Julius and his wife Barbel, the two other tourists in the company of Mirenge and Endecott were left in the wild before the abductors fled with their colleague and tour guide.
Upon abduction, the kidnappers, using Endecott’s phone demanded USD500,000 (Shs1.8billion). According to police, ransom was the reason behind the kidnap.
“We want to inform the public and a ll visitors in the country that the Joint security teams have cut off all exit areas on the border between Uganda and the DR Congo in search of the victims since the park along the border. We strongly believe the perpetrators and victims are still trapped within our search area and we are hopeful that our efforts will lead to their successful recovery,” deputy police spokesperson Polly Namaye said then.
On Sunday however, a statement linked to Uganda police stated that Mirenge, a Ugandan born Congolese and Endecott were safe.
“The rescue of kidnapped tourist and driver guide is complete. Both captives back in safe hands under the safety of the Uganda police. Details will be given later,” a source with the Uganda Police told Watchdog Uganda.
The statement was parroted by Ephraim Kamuntu, the Tourism Minister during a hastily arranged presser on Sunday evening.
“We have Miss Sue. She is safe. She is secure. The driver Jean Paul is safe and secure and unharmed. However, as result of rescuing these there two, there are consequential matters that we might not discuss at this material point. We however thank, UTB, UWA, the press and for a wonderful job done. And I am saying this authoritatively, I am the minister of tourism, the information we give you is very credible. Sue and Jean are safe and they will be reunited with their families soon,” Prof. Kamuntu said.
A day after the kidnap, a joint press statement released by Uganda Tourism Board, the Police and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), said the tourists were driving a van registration number UAR 777E before they were taken hostage near Katoke gate in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
“The outlaws put the occupants under gun point and abducted two of them; a Ugandan driver and an American Citizen. The other occupants of the van who were left behind managed to contact a few people who came to their rescue,” the statement signed by UTB’s Sandra Natukunda and Bashir Hangi of UWA said then.
“All security agencies such as the Uganda Police and the Uganda People’s Defense Forces including wardens from the Uganda Wildlife Authority have joined in the hunt for these outlaws with the main aim of safely securing the hostages. The lives of the kidnapped are a key priority during this process. We appeal for calm as we find a lasting solution to this issue.”
The rescue of Mirenge and Endecott is a positive to the tourism industry especially after Uganda Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Lilly Ajarova called on tourists – local and international – to continue visiting the Park, known as ‘understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination’ boasts outstanding wildlife attractions, and a fascinating cultural history, as well as other destinations.