By VOM News Team
The chairman of Nkuringo Conservation and Development Foundation (NCDF) Asgario Turyagyenda is under immense pressure to resign his office after communities of Nkuringo and Rubuguri town councils in Bukimbiri County, Kisoro district have described his stay as illegal.
The communities claim that Turyagyenda’s four year term expired, as is stipulated by the constitution of the organization.
They also accuse him of running the organization using an illegal constitution that was never agreed upon by the members.
Asgario Turyagyenda, a resident of Kahurire village, Nteko parish, Nkuringo town council is the former aspirant for Bukimbiri County Member of Parliament (2021)
He is currently serving his sixth year as chairman of NCDF after allegedly amending the Memorandum and Articles of Association back in 2021 with the support of 33 members.
Article 60 of the new Constitution, under the terms of office bearers’ states that, all elected office bearers shall serve a term of seven years after which elections shall be held to replace them.
The same clause further states that, “for avoidance of doubt, the term of the office bearers at the time of the amendment shall be construed to continue to run from the date of their election to office in October, 2016 until completion of seven year term”
It is alleged that a Constitutional review was conducted by Turyagyenda during the two year period of lockdown of the Covid 19 Pandemic.
Members of NCDF claim that they were prohibited from gathering to meet and deliberate on issues concerning their organization.
The Ministry of health directive on Covid-19 at the time required communities to observe Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), including avoiding crowds, Social distancing among others.
Some groups now accuse the NCDF chairman of manipulating the constitution to suit his desires of staying in power longer.
A total of 900 signatures from members were collected in a petition contesting the illegal stay of the Asgario Turyagyenda in office.
The petition was forwarded to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).
On February 8th 2020, Angela Nyesiga, on behalf of the Registrar General of URSB writes back to the management of NCDF referring to the illegal stay in office by unelected leaders of the NCDF and non- compliance to directives.
The document that has since gone viral, states that the company Secretary urgently convenes a meeting of members in line with the company’s articles of Association as per directives contained in the ruling issued on November 4th 2021.
The Registrar of companies also demands to be informed of the outcome of the meeting, including the newly elected Board of directors within 14 days of holding the meeting.
Based on that Premise, Nkuringo and Rubuguri town council Mayors Atanazius Kajubwama and Hakiza Nicholas decide to call for a meeting earlier this week to enlighten the members of NCDF how Chairman Asgario Turyagenda had hoodwinked and defrauded them of their rights.
The NCDF constitution states that membership into the Organization is for all residents within the boundaries of former Nteko and Rubuguri parishes, having attained 18 years of age and is of sound mind.
Days before the planned meeting, NCDF successfully attains an interim order from High Court of Kabale from His Worship Gordon Muhimbise against respondents, Robert Baganda Tumwesigye, Atanazius Kajubwama and Hakiza Nicholas restraining them, or their agents from holding the extraordinary general meeting.
During a radio interview with Voice of Muhabura, Mr. Turyagenda explained that the planned meeting for 9th March 2022 was illegal and that all people who will attend the meeting will be held in contempt of High court.
Defiant Communities meet
The communities of Nkuringo and Rubuguri decided to meet on Wednesday 9th March 2022 despite the court order.
Police and the Uganda People’s Defense forces (UPDF) were deployed to suppress an angry crowd who insisted that it was their constitutional right, as Ugandans to express their freedoms of speech and association.
Drama unfolded when Conservationist and founder member of NCDF Kanyamunyu Fidelis commonly known as Rubbz was bundled into a Police pickup, under preventive arrest.
Moments before being released Kanyamunyu made a memorable speech, standing tall on the Police pickup insisting that they can no longer keep silent when the great NCDF is being run into the ground.
The video has since gone viral.
During a phone interview with Kanyamunyu, he explained that due to the illegal leadership in place, key partners and donors have pulled out at the expense of the community.
“At least I own Wagtail camp site where I can earn a living but what about the poor communities who are completely dependent on conservation activities, we need things to be rectified as soon as possible, Kanyamunyu explained.
Fidelis Kanyamunyu is also a former political aspirant for Bukimbiri County Member of Parliament.
During the community meeting, the members agreed to meet with the Head of the NGO forum in Kisoro who is also the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ismail Onzu Musa on March 16th 2022 to select new leaders.
Former Chairman of NCDF Sabiti Chrysostom declined to comment on the matter when approached.
Asgario Turyagyenda speaks out.
The chairman of NCDF Asgario Turyagyenda says he has nothing to hide since he has reports from the Constitutional review defending the legitimacy of the entire process.
Turyagyenda says, the Wednesday meeting was illegal because the Organization has a constitution and structures that allows for petitions to be handled which was not followed.
In response to the 16th March 2022 meeting with the Kisoro CAO, Mr. Turyagyenda says he is not aware of such a meeting.
He further pointed out that a meeting cannot happen basing on words adding that people need to be given prior notice.
Other Stakeholders Speak out
The Chief Warden for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Guma Nelson says NCDF and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) share a close working relationship that is aimed at promoting Conservation and development in the area.
Guma Nelson, who is the current chairman of the Joint Management Board (JMB) says land (12Kms by 35 meters) was bought from the community to constitute the inner and outer buffer zone where animals and the community can interact without causing any damage to conservation efforts.
He says the inner buffer zone is manipulated to create food for the Mountain gorilla while the outer buffer zone currently has tea which is managed by Kigezi highland tea company at lease fee of 4 million shillings monthly.
“At least 48 million shillings is collected annually and is dedicated to a scholarship fund for learners seeking to go for higher education”, Guma explained.
According to Guma, the issues affecting NCDF are of concern to UWA because if communities are unhappy with the leadership then conservation efforts are likely to be hampered.
The Country director of International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) Henry Mutabazi says communities have every right to express their dissatisfaction about the ineffectiveness of the current leadership.
According to Mutabazi, leadership conflicts need to iron out quickly to prevent any negative effects on the conservation efforts.
Kisoro district Chief Administrative Officer Ismail Onzu Musa says he is aware of the issues in NCDF and has advised them to find a way to change the leadership in accordance with their articles of Association.
Onzu says, his office may be compelled to forward the matter to the Attorney General for further interpretation.
Facts about NCDF
NCDF was formed in 2004 with the support of a coalition of International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Fauna and Flora International (FFI)
The concept of forming NCDF was for the communities to benefit from the booming tourism in the southern sector.
Back in 2000, a habituated gorilla family called Nkuringo in the southern sector was ranging outside the park causing destruction to communities.
This led to the establishment of Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, a Community Conservation project.
The land upon which Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is owned by the communities that contributed towards its purchase.
According to Sources with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), ten non- exclusive gorilla permits are reserved at the Lodge to benefit communities. A foreign non resident permit attracts $700, foreign resident $600 while a Ugandan pays 250,000 Ugandan shillings.
At least 300 million shillings is collected annually. This was before the prolonged Covid-19 lockdown.
The monies collected from Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge are managed by NCDF and are supposed to help communities.