Uganda conservation news – UWA commission of enquiry told ‘time is up’

In a stunning turnabout was the Commission of Enquiry, chaired by controversial former Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba asked to wind up immediately and file their long overdue report.
News broke overnight that the tourism Minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu has instructed the Secretary of the Commission to wind up their work, prompting a lamenting outcry by Kanyeihamba that he would only do so if told by the President.
Often termed Otafires kangaroo court, as it was the former equally controversial tourism minister Kahinda Otafire who instituted the commission, the work was initially hampered by lack of funds and office spaces. Supposed to run for three months the work dragged on inexplicably and the term of the commission was then extended before the current minister concluded that enough is enough.
Otafires choice of board and in particular chairman for UWA last year was widely critizised as an act of nepotism, as the chair happened to be Otafires personal physician and patently unqualified to hold such a position, and when clashes erupted over demands by the chairman and board to raise their allowances and benefits substantially, opposed by top management of UWA at the time, matters came to a head when the Executive Director at the time was first suspended with several other senior colleagues and then sacked. Assuming the role of Executive Chairman, something however not provided for in the Wildlife Act, then prompted a court case following which the chairman and members of the board were dismissed for not meeting the criteria of selection, a slap in the face of the appointing authority, i.e. Otafire.
Never known to go down without a fight though Otafire retaliated by constituting the Commission of Enquiry, eventually ending up himself as a witness before the commission, which excelled in selective memory lapses over his own alleged drawing of funds from UWA to finance his travels and other duties.
A former chairman of UWA, John Nagenda, has also come out strongly against the shenanigans perpetrated by the former minister and in particular by the chairman of the commission, and another former chairman of UWA, respected city lawyer Andrew Kasirye publicly critizised Kanyeihamba for allegedly prejudging and the way he treated witnesses and called them names in public. In a rather unprecedented step did Kasirye some weeks ago reportedly write to the minister with an official complaint.
All said and done though, UWAs present situation is a shadow of its former self, with senior staff avoiding taking decisions and referring matters upstairs, where an Acting Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Seguya, is still awaiting to learn about his own fate and whether his appointment will be confirmed or a new search for an ED be undertaken by a new board, as and when it is appointed by Prof. Kamuntu. This is thought to be imminent now as the tourism minister has in past weeks intensely consulted with stakeholders. Watch this space for the final stage of this seemingly never-ending saga.

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