Kim Sue Endicott, an American national of Southern California and her Uganda safari guide Jean Paul Mirenge who were kidnapped in the Mendeley of wonders; Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda and held five days by armed abductors were returned unharmed on Sunday 7th April 2019 following the payment for the ransom asked for. The kidnappers who abducted them at gunpoint in Queen Elizabeth National Park had demanded a $500,000 ransom, but we are not sure of the amount that was paid to the kidnappers after negotiation for exchange of the kidnapped.
The Secretary of State; Mike Pompeo expressed empathy for the Endicott family last week but said the U.S. has a long tradition of not paying a ransom to secure the release of U.S. citizens. “Please remember that any payment to a terrorist or a terrorist regime gives money so that they can seize more of our people,” Pompeo said after meeting privately with relatives of other U.S. citizens being held captive abroad. “Even a small payment to a group in, say, Africa can facilitate the killing or seizure of tens or even hundreds of others, including Americans or foreign nationals in that region.”
What exactly happened?
Kim Sue Endicott and Jean Paul were out on an evening Uganda wildlife safari expedition with a Canadian couple, Martin and Barbel Jurrius, both 78 in Queen Elizabeth’s along the isolated Edward track when they were approached by four gunmen on Tuesday between 6 and 7 p.m., according to a Ugandan police statement. “The unknown gunmen put the tourists on gunpoint, and grabbed two out of the four tourists, before disappearing with them,” the statement reads. Once released, Martin and Barbel Jurrius were able to get in contact with a camp manager, who found them safe, police said. The kidnappers then used Endicott’s cell phone to contact authorities and demand a $500,000 random.
The Uganda police and its sister agencies recovered the abducted unharmed and in good health. They were after handed back in safe hands and driven to a lodge in Queen Elizabeth. People at the park reported that they saw a Ugandan military aircraft and at least six other military helicopters landed at a nearby airport, and soldiers in military vehicles speeded in and out of a park entrance. As the search was going on, assistant inspector general of the Ugandan Police, Abbas Byakagaba said; “We are prepared for it and I think we will be able to resolve it.”
Police said the tourists were in a Wild Frontiers Safaris Uganda vehicle that was also taken by the kidnappers and found abandoned in the park with the keys missing.
What has the Uganda government done to comfort the kidnapped?
Ephraiam Kamuntu, the Minister of Tourism in Uganda, went to Queen Elizabeth National Park last weekend hoping to reassure the families of Endicott and Jean Paul that the Ugandan government was doing everything it could to find their loved ones; “My hope and my firm belief, my desire and my effort is to restore these people both safe and sound.” and so they did.
Are the Uganda National Parks safe?
The Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesperson, Bashir Hangi, said the kidnapping was unprecedented. “This is a one-off incident, it’s an isolated incident. It is not something that happens regularly. It is not something that we are known for,” Hangi said. “It’s very unfortunate, it is regrettable but it happened.”
“Our parks are very safe right now. Tourists on safaris Uganda are normally carrying out their short Uganda wildlife safari as well as their long Uganda wildlife safaris as earlier planned in the park. Tourist activities are going on normally despite the incident because we have security in our parks, we maintain national parks and they are all very safe. That’s why you have not had such an incident before, and now that it has happened it has also opened our eyes to do some soul searching and see how can we best improve on the security of our people,” he said.
The last similar incident involving tourists was in 1999, and involved rebels from the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hangi said, adding that about 1.4 million tourists now visit Uganda each year.
Kidnappings of this nature are rare in Uganda, Reuters reports. The most recent high-profile kidnapping occurred in 1999, when eight tourists and four guides were killed in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, just south of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
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