MPs reject UWA report on wildfires. The Committee on Trade, Tourism, and Industry in the Parliament of Uganda is conducting an inquiry into the cause of fires that gutted Mazike lodge and Park View Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Members of the committee have rejected an investigative report by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), on the wildfires citing inconsistency and inaccuracies of a wildfire that burnt partly the tourist destination amenities on 23 July 2021 destroying 18 structures including cottages, a hall, and a sentry box.
UWA’s report indicates that the fire started from community land belonging to Dr. Benson Tumwesigye, a staff of the Ministry of Health emphasizing that the cause of the fire was a honey harvesting activity in which fire used to generate smoke for chasing bees from honeycombs was not extinguished, Mwandha said in his report.
According to Mwandha the Executive Director of UWA, the staff of the lodge was to blame as they were fond of throwing flammable materials such as plastics and clothes across the fence and this increased the intensity of the fire when it reached the lodge’s perimeter wall.
The UWA findings on the lodge’s negligence still indicate that all the lodges had fire extinguishers however no information was provided on why staff could not try to put out the fire apart from employees recording videos and taking photographs without bothering to call UWA or any agency for help.
MPs were also concerned that UWA’s report indicates that UWA reported the fire outbreak case to the forensic department of Police yet Uganda police denied receiving a formal letter about the case.
“The case was never reported to police; procedure requires that any outside body when writing to police should write to the IGP, not the department of forensics as alleged by UWA’S ED. But there is no letter in the office of the IGP regarding this matter,” said Maj. Gen Katsigazi Tumusiime, Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP).
MPs were irked on finding out that whereas Uganda Police commenced investigations a day after the fire, UWA disregarded Police and hired a private investigator whose findings they said could not be trusted.
“We are trying to see why you did not have confidence in Police; why did you go ahead to hire a private investigator? The chairperson of the committee, Hon Mwine Mpaka asked.
According to the MPs, when you go to Dr. Tumwesigye’s farm, there seems not to have been any fire; the grass are grown and it seems UWA is implicating him.
However, Mwandha reiterates that in addition to their private investigations, satellite imagery from NASA, based in the USA indicates that the fire originated from a honey harvesting farm belonging to Dr. Tumwesigye.
The committee has directed Mwandha the Executive Director of UWA to come another time to present accurate information since he didn’t have sufficient information satisfy the committee.