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Stone Quarrying Threatens Existence of Rock Painting Sites in Teso :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Stone Quarrying Threatens Existence of Rock Painting Sites in Teso

Jackline Nyiracyiza Besigye, the Acting Commissioner for Museums and Monuments at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MoTWA) says that the ministry is involved in back-and-forth exchanges with some of the companies that have been quarrying in Kapir.
Members of Iteso Cultural Union climbing through Nyero Rock Paintings Sites.

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The cherished rock paint sites in the Teso sub-region face an imminent existential threat from unregulated stone quarrying activities. The revered heritage sites found in almost all the districts of Teso are essential for tourism, education, and research.

The sites, which boast a history spanning up to 8,000 years, are not only a national treasure with a unique presence in Uganda but also tell enormous stories about human ancestry and the evolution of man. They are also looked at as sacred places where the living interface with their ancestors for problem-solving.  

Some famous sites like the Nyero Rock Paintings in Kumi district attract thousands of tourists including learners from within and across Ugandan boundaries annually. Nyero is now home to some religious sects who seek blessings and make sacrifices for the atonement of sins. One such rock (Moru Susa) is now known as a place for meeting with God and some Christians spend days there in prayer.

But a few kilometers away from Nyero lies another rock- Kapir rocks in Ngora district.  Although the rock presents unique features and stands in the central viewpoint of the Teso and Karamoja districts with its beautiful sceneries, the local community and their henchmen find it a potential area for business through the quarrying of stones.

The quarrying at these sites is not only by random individuals but also established organizations like Spencon and Dot Services.  Jackline Nyiracyiza Besigye, the Acting Commissioner for Museums and Monuments at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MoTWA) says that the ministry is involved in back-and-forth exchanges with some of the companies that have been quarrying in Kapir. 

She notes that the quarrying practice at one point destroyed a rock art site believed to be older than the ones at Nyero. To her, the activity also scares away tourists since tourism requires peace, and the Teso Cultural Union should get directly involved in helping to put an end to this behavior.

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According to Nyiracyiza, there’s need for the political leadership and the Iteso Cultural Union to join hands in sensitization and education of communities on the importance of existing rocks in Teso sub region.  She adds that if the practice continues, especially in Kapir where it is very outstanding, the site will be left out of the list to be submitted to UNESCO for recognition as a world heritage site.

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During the commemoration of the International Museums Day in Soroti last week, the Vice President, Jessica Alupo asked the local leaders in Teso to sensitize communities on the importance of rocks as another means of livelihood through tourism.

"I would like to advise the people of the Teso region to preserve the Kapir rocks because apart from the rock art treasure, the Kapir rock in Ngora district provides a unique viewpoint of the entire Teso sub-region in 360 degrees. There is a high potential for bird watching, especially in the complex of Lake Bisina wetland system," Alupo said.

The Iteso Cultural Union Minister for Tourism, Joseph Ojaatum says they have mapped out all tourism potential sites in Teso and will be working with the leadership in Teso to ensure that such areas are protected. Ojaatum says that as one of the ways to promote tourism, the Iteso Cultural Union has organized a tourism symposium in the region that will provide the foundation for the preservation of other rock art sites. 

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Tourism Direct Gross Domestic Product accounts for 3.64 percent of the GDP in terms of the direct contribution.  Tourism also accounts for a large share of total employment, directly employing close to 1.6 million people, 68 percent of whom were females and accounting for 14.7 percent of the total number of jobs, according to statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2023.