President Yoweri Museveni has said that although he has reservations about beauty pageants, he fully understands what prompted the organisers to launch the controversial Miss Curvy Uganda pageant.
On Tuesday, the state minister in-charge of tourism Godfrey Kiwanda launched the Miss Curvy Uganda pageant under the Tulambule Tourism project at Mestil Hotel.
He explained that the pageant is aimed at celebrating Uganda's most endowed and curvaceous women. However the pageant has since drawn outrage from several sections of the public, who have accused Kiwanda of portraying women as sex objects and tourism products.
Kiwanda defended the pageant, and said tourism starts with the people, and that Uganda's tourism is more than just animals.
Asked by journalists whether cabinet took a decision to organise the contest, Museveni said he also just learnt about the pageant from the media. Museveni said a lot of "empty heads" who are "full of themselves" are throwing around "shallow" arguments against the pageant, yet they are the same people who celebrate other beauty pageants that focus majorly on beauty.
Museveni said it was perhaps after seeing Miss Uganda and Miss World Africa, Quiin Abenakyo being appreciated that the organisers of Miss Curvy Uganda "became creative" and decided to organise a pageant that appreciates body structure as opposed to beauty.
"You know some of these people are just full of themselves, the ones [critics] I see talking…these [organisers] are young people, they need to be handled sympathetically not like some of the empty heads I saw talking. These who are talking, what is the boundary between beauty?"
"If you say you can compete for beauty, it becomes an issue globally. If nalulungi (beauty queen) is going to be appreciated why not nabitege (the curvaceous). The ones I saw talking in their shallow ways...You say that nalulungi is alright but nabitege is not alright. I suspect these people when they saw nalulungi being appreciated, even me I received her - the whole world, they developed the concept...These people are not serious, they are shouting waaaah waaaah. Why didn’t you comment about nalulungi?" said Museveni.
Museveni said that he will inquire more about the objectives of the pageant from the organisers and give his guidance. but doesn't want to impose his opinions on other people.
The president said that he has not yet formed an opinion on beauty pageants and does not know how exactly to approach the matter. He asked that Ugandans take time and understand the issue and guide those involved.
"Maybe we have made a mistake by appreciating nalulungi. I was even thinking about it when I was receiving Abenakyo. I was wondering would I allow my grandchildren to participate in this [Miss World competition]? Certainly I wouldn’t allow them." Museveni said.
Museveni said he personally knows some of the organisers including the "big" Annie Mungoma, who he said a very good sharpshooter and even represented Uganda in shooting at the Olympics.
"I think in their [Miss Curvy organisers] simple reasoning, if beauty can be a selling point for an individual and for a country - Miss Africa, I think they started thinking, they started being creative…if this one can be appreciated, what about this one? That is what I suspect because I know the children. Annie Mungoma is a very good child. We shall engage them quietly…If beauty is good, how about structure, curves, I have got to show them off. For me that is what I suspect."
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, has also condemned the Miss Curvy Uganda pageant. He asked the sponsors and partners to cancel it immediately.
In a statement, Ntagali says that the pageant undermines the dignity of women and all that the church has worked for to advance girl-child education.
"It is a disgusting display of exploitation and brings shame upon our families and our country. The government is promoting trafficking to increase tourism. To present such a programme is to demonstrate how low we have fallen as a country. We cannot accept it and we insist that it be cancelled," reads Ntagali's statement.