The government has set aside Shs15 billion to buy out land owners neighbouring the Catholic, Anglican and Muslim Martyrs shrines in Namugongo, Wakiso District, a senior government official has said.

Mr Godfrey Kiwanda, the Minister of State for Tourism, yesterday said the money has been provided in the 2018/19 Financial Year budget, which starts next month.

The expenditure will be part of an ambitious government initiative to upgrade the holy sites to attract more tourists and increase foreign exchange earning

Mr Kiwanda said details of planned modernisation works are being prepared by different ministries and government agencies.
“Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) will construct the roads, Works ministry the pavilions, Ministry of Water and Environment will provide water and sanitation services,” he said.

It was not immediately clear how much land the government intends to buy.
However, the inter-ministerial agency plans to expand the martyrs’ museums, erect a new modern pavilion, shopping mall and a car park for pilgrims.

Earlier, the Tourism minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, said the government has realised that Uganda Martyrs are a tourists’ magnet and upgrading the shrines is projected to increase earnings from faith-related tourists to $4.5b (Shs17 trillion) by 2020, up from the current Shs10 trillion.

“The idea of investing in Namugongo is based on the fact that many people around the world believe in the Namugongo saints. We want to make each one of them a household name because they are contributing to our Gross Domestic

Product (GDP),” Prof Kamuntu said.

The Uganda martyrs are a group of people killed for their faith in the late 19th century on the orders of Buganda kings.

There are wide-ranging institutions and facilities around the world, particularly West African states, named after the Uganda Martyrs such as St Matia Mulumba, St Charles Lwanga, St Mugagga and St Andrew Kaggwa.

“We want to upgrade Namugongo to the status of Rome and Jerusalem so that the way Anglicans visit Jerusalem, Catholics visit Rome and Muslims visit Mecca is the way they (pilgrims) will be coming here,” Prof Kamuntu said.

Separately, the government is carrying out an inventory of theme-related tourism sites so that tour operators can sell them as consolidated tourism package so that the pilgrims can stay longer sight-seeing and spend more.