The Government is in the process of gazetting the Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo a national tourist site, an official has disclosed.
This is expected to elevate the holy place to the level of pilgrimage sites such as Rome in Italy or Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Naava Nabagesera, the special presidential assistant on political affairs disclosed on Friday that the Government would take part in activities to commemorate Martyrs Day, to be held on June 3.
“The Government is working with religious leaders to promote Martyrs Day because of its significance to promote Uganda as a tourist destination,” she told journalists at the Media Centre in Kampala yesterday.
Every year, thousands Christians trek to Namugongo to intercede with the 45 Protestant and Catholic martyrs, who were killed on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II in 1886, after they refused to renounce their faith.
Martyrs Day is the biggest single event in Uganda, attracting thousands of people from all over the world. This year, over 1.6 million pilgrims are expected to visit the shrine, and hundreds have already set up camp.
President Yoweri Museveni has directed all ministries and their affiliate institutions to take part in this year’s event, Naava said.
The health ministry will help to disinfect the water at the Namugongo shrine, set up over 100 mobile toilet facilities and provide emergency health services during the event. The foreign affairs ministry will deploy protocol officers to receive guests, Naava explained.
The Presidential Initiative on Sustainable Tourism (PRESTO), a taskforce set up by the President, is coordinating the work of the ministries.
Unlike during previous festivities, the sale of alcohol and food items by the roadside has been banned and blaring music from traders is also prohibited.
Another unique feature of this year’s festivities is the participation of the Muslim community. At least 70 Muslims were the first to be killed, and the community will commemorate the day on Friday.
Speaking to the New Vision, Naava disclosed that starting next financial year, all ministries will be expected to make budget allocations for them to participate in the event.
The President has also directed power distributer, UMEME to ensure that the shrine is well-lit ahead of the festivities. The Uganda National Roads Authority has also started rebuilding roads to the shrines as well as the Kireka-Namugongo road, the main route to the shrines.
By Taddeo Bwambale, The New Vision