posted on: Thursday April 11, 2019
by Thomas Edwards ’20
Last Tuesday, April 2, in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park bordering the Congo, American tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott, Canadian tourists Martin and Barbel Jurrius, and their Congolese safari guide Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo were held at gunpoint by four armed men, according to Ugandan police. “The unknown gunmen put the tourists on gunpoint, and grabbed two out of the four tourists, before disappearing with them,” read the official police statement.
Martin and Barbel Jurrius were able to escape and get into contact with a camp manager. Using Endicott’s cell phone, the kidnappers were able to contact local authorities and demand a $500,000 ransom payment. The police believe the ransom to be the reason behind the kidnapping.
According to Pam Lopez, a friend of Endicott, she had been planning this trip to Uganda for a while. Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesperson Bahir Hangi, stated, “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.” Because of this, Endicott, the other tourists, and the guide, had no reason to believe they were in any danger while out on the expedition.
When word of Endicott’s situation reached back home, her family was worried that nothing would be done, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed that the U.S. has a long tradition of not paying ransoms. “Please remember that any payment to a terrorist or a terrorist regime gives money so that they can seize more of our people,” said Pompeo in his statement. However, Endicott’s family, especially her cousin Rich Endicott, implored the government to save her life.
After Rich Endicott’s request to the U.S. government, the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined in the search for Endicott along with Ugandan police and military personnel. On Sunday, April 7, Endicott and Remezo were found with their captors. Upon their discovery the ransom for their release was paid; however, there is some confusion around who exactly paid the ransom and how much of it had been paid. It has since been discovered that the entirety of the ransom was paid, and Endicott and Remezo were freed in a negotiated handover.
After the release of Endicott and Remezo, President Trump has requested that Uganda find the captors to ensure the country is safe. “Bring them to justice openly and quickly!” said the President in a tweet on Monday, April 8, adding that it is the only way “people will feel safe in going there.” The Uganda Police issued a statement on Monday, April 8, reassuring visitors of the safety of Uganda and expressing that they are searching for the criminals.