Tourism queen: Last weekend, 19-year-old Challa Elma Kapel was crowned Miss Tourism 2017.
She spoke to Edgar R. Batte about Karamoja and how she intends to tap it for tourism.
What went through your mind when you were announced pageant winner for Miss Tourism 2017?
I first thought about my people, the Karimojong who were present at Serena, then my mum and the big opportunities, the things I am going to be doing and position I had attained in the country. I was excited and thrilled. That is why at some point, I froze.
What is it about your people that got you thinking about them?
I had an urge and goal to represent Karamoja in Uganda, which I managed to attain. Being able to reach the top five and eventually win, I feel I now have a chance to represent them to the fullest. I have made them proud. My goal now is to represent Uganda at the international level.
When did you first conceive the idea of contesting for Miss Tourism?
I got the idea in 2014. The pageant was new. It had started in 2013. My aunt was one of the first to contest and she failed. Her failure inspired me. I talked to my mother about it. I was in Senior Four vacation at the time. She told me to first finish Senior Six.
When I sat for my UACE (Uganda Advanced Certificate of Examination), I reminded my mother about my goal to stand and she supported me. I started making inquiries and I was told to first compete at the regional level.
Now that you are Miss Tourism, what is your wish list?
I want to promote domestic tourism in Karamoja especially, because my people do not realise how rich our culture is. For instance, there is a day when Karimojong were given free entrance to Kidepo National Park which was good. I would also like to promote craft-making, bead work and hides which are part of our tradition.
What was your experience during boot camp?
It was exciting, especially meeting the different girls. There was one girl from West Nile who was very jolly. Even when you were gloomy, she would come around and liven you up. Then the dances from different regions were another experience. I was a fast learner and I was called to the front.
Did you showcase some dances from your home area?
Yes, I did. I gave them a mix of our traditional dances. Our dances are courtship dances for people to get marriage partners. Others are meant to entertain guests. One of the popular ones is where we jump high.
How much can you identify with Karamoja?
I have lived there. I come from Nakapel Moru. We have a rich culture that has not been diluted by western culture. It is home to the great Mountain Moroto. The people are beautiful and have big hearts.
How much have you lived there?
I will not lie. I have only been going there during third term holidays since I have been studying in Kampala. I spent my Senior Six vacation there.
Do you have a boyfriend?
No, I do not.
Have you been in a relationship recently?
Yes, I have been in one.
How did it end?
We could not connect anymore. Those things happen. We just stopped talking from nowhere.
What are the things that put you off?
Well, I hate being questioned a lot. There are some nagging questions some people ask. I also hate negative people. I do not like being near someone negative.
I like positive people. I also hate looking down on people. There are people who look at someone and judge them, which is wrong. My mother tells me never to look down on people because everyone has potential.
What are your hobbies?
I like swimming. It is good exercise. I hate the exercises that get me sweating. I love travelling because when I travel, I meet new people and experience different cultures.
What would you like to see done better in the tourism sector?
I would like each region to have promoted sites and guides who can speak different languages.
How many languages can you speak?
I can speak Akarimojong, Luganda, English and Swahili. I understand Runyankore and Rugisu.
How are you able to speak and understand these languages?
I have been to different schools and lived in different communities, in boarding schools.