FORMER TOURISM MINISTER IN CROSS HAIRS FOR INCOMPETENCE
The immediate former Minister for Tourism Trade and Industry, Hon. Kahinda Otafire, thankfully removed from this crucial ministry to wreak havoc elsewhere, has come under intense scrutiny for alleged incompetence over a range of decisions he made in regards to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, as is now being widely reported in the local media. Known for his remark of being a ‘Minister for Crocodiles’ and other comical episodes, it appears that the UWA saga had rattled the entire cabinet at the time when an election campaign was underway, giving way to an internal investigation to be carried out on direction of the Prime Minister, who had tasked one of his deputies to provide a fast tracked report before Christmas last year to the President.
The damning document, parts of which now leaked into the public domain, focused on the appointment of the current Acting Executive Director, who was uprooted from his position as Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe by the minister’s ‘appointment’, which it declared ‘irregular’ before stopping short of hanging out Otafire to dry when adding that his (Otafire’s) request to have the President appoint a ‘caretaker board’ would have ‘complicated issues’, diplomatically leaving out what might well have been added verbally, that this too would have been another illegal move.
A resolution by the investigative committee that a new board be proposed within a fortnight by Otafire seemingly fell on deaf ears though as no such proposals were reportedly made, leaving the Uganda Wildlife Authority in a lurch and hamstrung, adding further injury to the damage the minister had done earlier already.
While Otafire is now Minister of Justice, a position where he might well learn a lesson or two about legalities, the new Minister for Tourism, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, is now tasked to sort out his predecessors messes and diplomatically refrained from direct comments on the circumstances of exactly who is legally who in UWA at this moment in time. Sources from within the Ministry of Tourism, itself now seeking a new home after becoming a separate entity from Trade and Industry again, however confirmed that the UWA affair keeps occupying both the Minister and the Minister of State, both of whom were working hand in hand with the office of the Attorney General in order to bring about legal responses and action as provided for under the Wildlife Act, which governs the running of UWA and which was contemptuously ignored by Otafire.
Staff at UWA in the meantime are said to be worried about their own future, considering the Otafire instituted Commission of Enquiry recently caused four more staff to be suspended, and work, while superficially continuing, is according to internal and external sources far from running smooth, with decisions instead of being taken as was the case in the past being ‘referred upstairs’ if for nothing else but to protect individuals from being ‘railroaded’.
How the once mighty and shining organization has fallen at a time when oil companies are about to embark from test drilling to move to production, and multiple sites being located inside the Murchisons Falls National Park or along the Kaiso Tonya Game Reserve along the shores of Lake Albert, when first and foremost a strong UWA would be needed to ensure environmental compliance and full compliance with mitigation measures, already agreed and still to be agreed.
Watch this space.