Uganda conservation news update – ‘UWA, and the destruction continues’


Recent articles here described the increasing shortfalls in the institutional setup of environmental protection and conservation across the country. A description of the woes of Lutembe Bay exposed in particular the failings of NEMA to take decisive steps to rescue what is now left of the once extensive wetland along the lake shores, which used to be a temporary home to myriads of migratory birds on their routes into and out of Africa, and a permanent home to many bird species resident in Uganda. The article was read by many, forwarded to NEMA too but like in the case of the daily shrinking of the Konge valley wetland, encroached more and more every night from both sides and from the inside, no action is seen to be taken, abdicating in the public eye the duties and responsibilities of our environmental watchdog.

Equally, the National Forest Authority is in doldrums too, after board members and senior management were arrested over a range of allegations, prompting a fresh wave of assaults on forests by eco-criminals ever ready to exploit institutional weaknesses and turmoil to their own ends.

But worst affected of them all appears to be UWA. During recent meetings in Kigali at a conservation conference alongside the Kwita Izina Festival Week, did representatives of wildlife management bodies from the East African region in private conversations discuss the case and there was general agreement that UWA had been dismembered to the point of being the regions ‘cousin gone or driven mad’ – a deep fall from grace for the once shining organization, now a faint shadow of those days.

It was learned over the weekend that the additional suspensions demanded by the ‘Commission of Enquiry’ have now been affected, throwing out another four staff members, two more senior and two less senior, further diminishing UWA’s ability to discharge its duties. In discussions with conservation stakeholders and other keen observers of the events, which unfolded when the former tourism minister started the chain reaction by appointing a crony and personal friend to the chair of UWA – a man then sacked by court for being unqualified to hold the position in the first place – it was found that all agreed an altogether more sinister agenda was at work here, quite likely paving the way for a broader assault on Uganda’s environment and conservation efforts, and speculation is rife that the soon ‘going life’ of oil production at wells inside Murchisons Falls National Park and along the Lake Albert shores in the near future would be ‘easier’ if the bodies tasked with environmental oversight and conservation management functions were ‘less coherent’ after being stirred up and tossed about, in other words intimidated and cowed.

In the case of the chair of the UWA Commission of Enquiry, retired Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba, it was also noted during a recent induction workshop for the new members of parliament, that in particular the NRM party members appeared largely bemused, several clearly disinterested and others dismissive of his ‘contributions’, raising yet more questions why he was chosen by the former tourism minister in the first place unless to fulfill a specific purpose.

All those with whom the matter was discussed appear firm in their opinions that one has to look beyond the current affairs of UWA and NFA and look for a bigger picture, one which writings are beginning to appear on the proverbial wall but are still written in a language which needs interpretation.

Watch this space.