Uganda news update – UWA stands firm in struggle over concession rights


As reported last year, the Uganda Wildlife Authority was given a directive from the Office of the President to hand over the derelict Grand Katarum Lodge inside the Kidepo National Park to a private developer who had found favour with the powers that be inspite of little if any proven experience of managing a remote safari lodge. Controversial tourism minister Hon. Kahinda Otafiire enthusiastically endorsed this directive, without however – what is new one can ask – considering the legal implications of his support for the ‘hand out’. When subsequently UWA advised him of the required procedure under the current Wildlife Act, instead of advising the Office of the President in turn of this, the source of the directive was left ignorant of the required steps of formally advertising such sites, evaluating the bids and then awarding the ‘best bidder’ accordingly, best by a range of criteria including operating experience of such properties elsewhere, and the financial ability to raise the required capital.

The matter again surfaced in the media today, clearly aimed at showing off the ministerial gaffe ahead of the crucial end game to form a new cabient, and explaining to an astonished public how some ministers and ministries apparently are quite content to break existing laws as long as it suits their ultimate purpose.

Grand Katarum is located in the Kidepo National Park, itself nestled in the border triangle of Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan, and was built in the 70’s but only days before being due for official opening, fully equipped and stocked, got looted by soldiers on the run into exile after another regime change back in those bad old days. UWA had on at least two occasions in the past advertised the lodge as a concession, for an investor to come in and restore the scenic site on a rocky hill to its former glory, but none was to be found in the absence of secure road transportation through a territory still notorious for cattle rustling gangs equipped with automatic rifles. Hence, to have a larger lodge like Katarum depend entirely on air transportation, expensive as no scheduled flights extend to Kidepo at this time, was not considered viable until now and while the existing Apoka Safari Lodge of Wild Places Africa does manage to get by, the cost of getting safely to Kidepo and back has in the past been a major constraint for more visitors to see this ‘prime piece of African wilderness’.

Be that as it may though, it is understood that should the ‘directive’ be bullied through, that enough individuals and organizations are readily standing by to file suit against government, demanding that due process must be fully observed and respected, something of a lesson apparently hard to be learned by some.

Watch this space.

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