Uganda's Mountains of the Moon reopen to tourists By Paul Busharizi KAMPALA, July 2 (Reuters) - The Ugandan government reopened the Rwenzori Mountains National Park to tourists on Monday, nearly four years after rebel activity forced the closure of one of the country's premier tourist attractions. "There has been a 100 percent reassurance that it is safe and you can all come and visit," Tourism Minister Edward Rugumayo said at the official reopening in the Ugandan capital. The snow-clad Rwenzoris, better known as Ptolemy's Mountains of the Moon, have been used since 1996 as a base for the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group seeking to overthrow the Ugandan government. But the army says it has been able to re-occupy the mountains and purge the rebels. "There is not a single ADF in the Rwenzoris," army chief of staff Brigadier James Kazini told tour operators and reporters at the opening ceremony. About 2,000 soldiers will remain permanently in the mountains and the army says it will build helicopter landing sites at strategic locations to allow for speedy troop deployment. The army also continues to occupy the part of eastern Congo adjacent to the mountains. "The permanent military presence on both sides of the border is necessary to ensure the rebels do not recapture the mountains," Kazini said. The mountain range, hidden in thick clouds for much of the year, is considered one of Africa's toughest mountaineering challenges, and includes the continent's third highest peak, the 5,120 metre (16,800 feet) high Mount Stanley. The park's reopening is expected to give a welcome boost to Uganda's tourism industry, which has been hit by several years of rebel activity in the country's border areas and an outbreak late last year of the deadly Ebola virus. In 1999, eight foreign tourists tracking rare mountain gorillas were killed by suspected Rwanda rebels in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in southwestern Uganda. Last year 151,483 tourists visited the country -- a tiny increase from 1999, but considerably less than the 236,905 who came in 1998, officials say. 09:53 07-02-01 Copyright 2001 Reuters