Uganda doesn’t need a lecture from President Trump, a government official said on Wednesday in dismissing Trump’s warning that the African country may feel unsafe to visitors after the recent kidnapping of an American tourist.
The official’s comments came as authorities announced the arrest of eight suspects and sought to reassure travelers about Uganda’s security, while the State Department added a warning to its travel advisory for Uganda.
On Sunday, Kimberly Sue Endicott of Costa Mesa, Calif., and a local driver and guide named Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo were released from captivity five days after gunmen seized them in Queen Elizabeth National Park, a popular tourist destination west of the capital, Kampala. The captors had demanded a $500,000 ransom, and authorities said the tour company that organized the excursion paid an amount that wasn’t disclosed.
After their release, Trump tweeted, “Uganda must find the kidnappers of the American Tourist and guide before people will feel safe in going there. Bring them to justice openly and quickly!”
Ofwono Opondo, a spokesman for the Ugandan government, on Wednesday vouched for the safety of the country and said nearly 2 million tourists had visited in the past year without experiencing “that kind of incident.”
He then addressed Trump’s comments.
“First of all, we don’t need his lecture,” Opondo said in an online video, adding that “we do believe that the arrests made should be able to convince the world that, actually, our security system works. We don’t have to go into arguments with Mr. Donald Trump or anybody.”
President Yoweri Museveni had previously sought to reassure travelers, tweeting that “Uganda is safe and we shall continue to improve the security in our parks.”
Tourism to Uganda brought in $1.7 billion last year, registering a small bump after a visit from musician Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, according to Bloomberg News.
Police did not provide details about the suspects, Reuters reported.
In the past, Trump has drawn criticism for his comments on African countries, including his reference to some African nations as “shithole” countries and his tweet of a false claim about mass violence against white South Africans.
Queen Elizabeth National Park and Uganda are considered safe for tourists, and kidnappings in the country are rare, The Washington Post’s Max Bearak reported. On Tuesday, however, the State Department added a new risk warning for “kidnapping and hostage taking by criminal and terrorist actors” to its travel advisories.
The 35-country list includes Afghanistan, Mexico and Uganda.