By Alex Gahima
Turbulent times lay ahead for Nkuringo Conservation and Development Foundation (NCDF) after Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has decided to serve a notice of termination of the memorandum of agreement after nearly 18 years of close working relations.
A written communication by UWA, dated September 16th, 2022, directed to the chairman NCDF states that the partnership is bound to end in three months, if pertinent issues are not addressed.
Uganda Wildlife Authority is a Government agency responsible for the management and protection of Wildlife in and outside protected areas.
Under the arrangement, UWA and NCDF formed the Joint Management Board (JMB) that oversees the conservation efforts in the Nkuringo Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The JMB is currently headed by Nelson Guma, Warden of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The endangered Mountain Gorillas that can be found in Bwindi faced a serious threat from communities that threatened to kill them because they would leave the forest and forage for food in people’s gardens.
UWA alongside other key Stakeholders including African Wildlife Foundation (AFW) and International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) decided to develop a sustainable program that would ensure conservation od=f the Mountain Gorilla as well as ensure communities neighboring the national park had an income generating avenue.
The Collaboration gave birth to the pioneer eco-tourism lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge.
The hotel was entitled to six Gorilla permits and all its profits would be managed by then NCCDF and used to benefit communities bordering the National Park.
An estimated 600 million shillings is raised every year from the hotel.
The partnership also ensured that another 48 million shillings was tagged to education scholarships from the tea buffer zone that stretches 12Kms by 35 meters was guaranteed.
This was aimed at supporting needy children in the communities that had a desire to attain an education.
UWA spokesperson Hangi Bashir says a notice of termination was written to NCDF because of their failure to meet certain requirements as were agreed upon in the contract.
Among the Key issues highlighted in the document include, NCDF’s failure to formally make UWA an ex officio on the NCDF’s board of directors, which is in line with Clause 4.1 (ii) of the agreement.
Failure by NCDF to provide annual performance reports as well as fundamentally altering the duration of the term of office of the executive members of the foundation, which was never communicated to UWA.
Bashir says UWA is still interested in working with NCDF however they need to remedy these issues within the stipulated period of three months.
He says until the above-mentioned issues are rectified, UWA will no longer be able to provide the gorilla permits or support any other activities.
NCDF Chairman Asgario Turyagenda says he received the letter.
According to Turyagyenda, UWA does not have any legitimate grounds to terminate their long-standing agreement because NCDF has not veered off the objective of Conservation.
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Turyagyenda, who has been on a break, following his recent failed attempt to become Member of Parliament for Bukimbiri County against Incumbent Eddie Kwizera Wa Gahungu, says the Communities of Nkuringo and Rubuguri should not be worried but have hope that the matters will be resolved quickly and amicably.
He says, UWA’s move to terminate a longstanding partnership is more of a political attack by his enemies.
Turyagyenda says he has scheduled a meeting with UWA Executive Director Sam Mwandha to harmonize the issues.
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