Kampala – Uganda’s Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities Minister Tom R. Butime has ordered the immediate closure of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary due to the ongoing wrangle between Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches (ZRWR), the owners of the land where the sanctuary is located and Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU), an NGO managing the rhinos.
In a letter addressed to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Executive Director which Africa Tembelea has seen, Minister Butime said that based on various correspondences from Capt. Joseph Charles Roy and RFU, indications were pointing towards a very volatile situation at the sanctuary.
“In the interest of the Rhinos’ security and safety of tourists to the Sanctuary, this is to direct you to immediately take full control of Rhino Security and suspend tourism at the Sanctuary with immediate effect,” Minister Butime said, adding that this is being done to “protect the Rhinos from any eventuality.”
According to Butime, Tourism business at the Sanctuary shall remain suspended until security of the Rhinos and tourists visiting them are safe from the ensuing conflict.
In the mean time, the Minister urged UWA to expedite plans of re introducing the Rhinos into the wild.
– History of Dispute –
In the early 2000s, Capt Roy leased land for rhino management for 30 years. This land was given free of charge, a great gesture from Capt Roy. At some point around 2010, Angie Genade’s husband negotiated with the land owner to establish a Lodge within sanctuary.
After construction and short operation of Amuka Lodge, (Angie’s husband) unfortunately passed on. Angie the current Executive Director of Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) took over management of the lodge too in what Africa Tembelea has learnt was only being done to help her sons with no interest in the business.
According to an inside source, Angie Genade failed to pay the dues to Capt. Roy as per agreement. When the land owner insisted, she allegedly used her authority as Executive Director RFU to block land owner from access.
It then became difficult for land owner to differentiate RFU from Amuka Lodge. The land owners then ordered RFU to vacate land – gave 2 years notice as per agreement with RFU which period already expired.
The matter reached President Museveni who brokered a deal. A new Board was to be established to manage the sanctuary, including land owner.
One of the issues agreed was that Capt. Roy would share in the income of the Ranch. 20% of activity and gate fees. It should be noted that NO DONOR MONEY was to be shared.
Africa Tembelea has learnt that there was clandestine work to change the constitution so as to suit an RFU individuals interests. It is alleged that the constitution was cleverly made to ensure land owner representatives have no real impact in the new board.
In line with UWA’s mandate of protecting wildlife resources in Uganda as per the Uganda Wildlife Act 2019, UWA in January 2021 deployed at Ziwa Sanctuary in Nakasongola district in order to secure the rhinos.
Even when the rhinos belong to govt of Uganda, UWA is responsible for their survival. UWA can work through a third party but ultimately the responsibility remains theirs.