South African president Jacob Zuma must have visited many countries by virtue of his status.
That he singled out Uganda for special mention during his speech at the Indaba tourism event in Durban, South Africa, early this week is something for us to be proud of. Zuma described Uganda as "such a beautiful country, evergreen", singling out Lake Victoria.
"I was there admiring the beauty of Uganda and I couldn't keep quiet...and I said, 'this country is beautiful'," Zuma was quoted as saying.
These glowing remarks from the leader of Africa's most advanced economy are worth more than a million-dollar advertisement on an international television channel. Yet Zuma is not the first foreign leader to publicly acknowledge Uganda's beauty.
Former British prime minister Winston Churchill saw what Zuma has seen as far back as 1907. Visiting Uganda for the first time while serving as parliamentary under-secretary of state for colonies, Churchill was blown away by the country and penned these words to his bosses back in England:
"The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa. I say 'concentrate on Uganda.' For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life - bird, insect, reptile, beast - for vast scale - Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa."
Unfortunately, the things that make Uganda such a beauty are under serious threat. The forest cover has significantly reduced due to unregulated human activities.
Lake Victoria that Zuma is in love with is facing serious pollution and is in real danger of drying up in future because the forests and wetlands that feed it have been disappearing at a frightening rate.
Meanwhile, our national parks are also being encroached upon; poaching and overfishing are rife.
If these ills continue at this rate, Ugandans will not have a beautiful country to be proud of in a few decades to come. To ensure this does not happen in our lifetime, we must not only guard but conserve our nature and heritage jealously.