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By Betty Amamukirori 

As the days draw closer to the 70th Miss World beauty pageant in Puerto Rico on December 16, the Government, led by the Ministry of Tourism, has organised a grand sendoff trip for the country’s representative, Elizabeth Bagaya. The activities involve a fundraising drive in Fort Portal.

Speaking at the Uganda Media Centre yesterday, the Minister of State for Tourism, Martin Mugarra Bahinduka, rallied Ugandans to donate to the fundraiser to enable the beauty queen travel to Puerto Rico.

Bahinduka said the activities would last three days. The beauty queen will take part in a procession from Kampala to her birthplace of Fort Portal, documenting the country’s beauty.

“We shall be in Fort Portal from November 5 to 7 (Friday to Sunday), trying to see how we can send her to Puerto Rico so that she can bring the crown home. Recently, we had Quiin Abenakyo (Miss Uganda 2018) carry the crown as the best in Africa and I have heard Bagaya is already ranked top 10, so we are sure she can bring the crown home,” he said.

Isaiah Rwanyekiro, the CEO of Breathtaking Uganda, a social enterprise that is partnering with the Government to sell the country as a tourism destination, said the sendoff trip will be flagged off by the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, on Friday. The journey will start from Kampala through Mityana-Mubende road, with stopovers in Mubende for roadside roasted chicken.

Bahinduka addresses journalists alongside  Bagaya,  Miss Uganda first runner-up Mariam Namatte and Miss Uganda second runner-up Petronella Acen during a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre, Kampala  yesterday. Photo by Juliet Kasirye

According to Rwanyekiro, the journey will be documented to help Bagaya showcase the beauty of Uganda as she steps on the pageant podium in Puerto Rico.

“This journey has been prepared for many years. It had been interrupted by COVID-19, but it’s finally going to happen, and we want to make it happen in a big fashion because the last time Uganda sent a representative to Miss World, she came back when she was Miss Africa. So it is our hope that this time around, she comes back as Miss World,” he said.

Rwanyekiro said once in Fort Portal, the team will check in at the Nyaika Hotel, where Bagaya will be welcomed with cultural performances and a sumptuous lunch.

Thereafter, the team will use the remaining days to visit several crater lakes, Sempaya Hot Springs, where they will boil eggs, Mabere ga Nyinamwiru, Kyeganywa Hilltop and finalise with a visit to Karuzika, Palace, where the group will have photo opportunities.

Rwanyekiro said, on Sunday, the team will pass by Chimpundu Lodge in Kibale National Park for more photo opportunities.

“The trip to Fort Portal will be climaxed with a carefully curated gathering of well-wishers and sponsors to celebrate Miss Uganda’s journey and to send her off. It will also be a night of Ugandan fashion, beauty and business communities gathering to dine with her and show her their support,” he said.

Bagaya, 26, is a holder of a bachelor’s degree in human resource management.  She was the first runner-up in the 2019/20 beauty pageant that was won by Oliver Nakakande. Due to COVID-19, Nakakande’s reign was extended to 2020/21, but she opted to pursue further studies, leaving the position vacant. Bagaya was thus made interim Miss Uganda.

Bagaya also runs the Bagaya Elizabeth Foundation that extends financial and mental support to children at Butabika Hospital.

She noted that given the support she has received from the country, she is confident she will win the coveted Miss World crown.

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