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MPs Reject UWA Report on Park View Safari Hotel Inferno

Using National Aeronautics and Space Agency–NASA from the USA, UWA indicated that their findings established the cause of the fire was honey harvesting activity, where fire used to generate smoke to repel the bees from the honeycombs was not extinguished.
04 Mar 2022 17:13
UWA Executive Officer Sam Mwandha (L) with police officials before the Parliamentary Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industries. Photo by Dominic Ochola

Audio 4

Parliament’s Committee on Tourism, Trade, and Industries has rejected the Uganda Wildlife Authority – UWA report on the fire that razed down Park View Safari Hotel.

An investigation report on the fire by UWA indicates that the fire that burnt the large chunks of the Park and the Lodge originated from a neighboring land belonging to Dr. Benson Tumwesigye, an employee of the Ministry of Health.

Using National Aeronautics and Space Agency–NASA from the USA, UWA indicated that their findings established the cause of the fire was honey harvesting activity, where fire used to generate smoke to repel the bees from the honeycombs was not extinguished.

UWA Executive Director, Sam Mwandha says the report generated by UWA Crime Investigation Unit confirmed 15 cottages, a restaurant, a bar, and reception, and a guard house were razed by fire.

Mwandha disclosed that UWA contracted Prof Karanja Thiong’o Kinyatta University Department of Chemistry as Chief Consultant to investigate the fire. However, Prof Karanja’s confidential report reveals that the fire resulted from “unknown human activity” contrary to UWA's report that the fire started from a beehive.

“We however observed a grass-thatched sunshade near a fig tree that suggested human activity in the area. In the circumstances and in our opinion, therefore, the fire loss at the community land resulted from unknown human activity and spread to the beehive”, part of the report read.

But Mwine MPaka, the Mbarara City South Division MP queried how and why UWA rushed to the decision to procure the services of a private fire consultant before the Police could conclude its investigations into the fire incident.

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Amuria District Woman Representative Susan Amero, tasked Mwandha to explain why UWA never reported the fire incident to the Rubirizi District territorial police as required by the law.

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Francis Mwijukye, the Buhweju County expressed displeasure that Mwandha’s statements are characterized by inconsistencies and that the report he produced needs further probing to establish the truth.

In his response, the visibly emotional Mwandha told MPs that UWA wrote to the Police Department of Forensics to investigate the fire.

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However, Maj Gen Katsigazi Tumusiime, the Deputy Inspector General of Police refuted Mwandha’s claims saying they have not received such a letter and tasked Mwandha to produce proof of the letter he wrote to the police.

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The lawmakers also threatened to put Mwandha on oath to compel him to tell the truth. They also asked him why UWA did not report Dr. Tumuwesigye to police if indeed the fire originated from his property.

Park View Safari Hotel, a private tourism facility is owned by Dickson Kateshumbwa, Sheema Municipality MP. It is located in Kyansama village, Kyambua Parish in Kichwamba Sub-County.

Kateshumbwa has threatened to sue UWA to seek compensation for the destroyed investment which he estimates to cost at least 10 billion shillings. He blamed UWA for controlled bush burning that subsequently spread and burnt down his Hotel.

Catherine Lamwaka, the Omoro District Woman MP who chaired the committee said they have concluded their inquiry into the cause of the wildfires at Queen Elizabeth National Park following Deputy Speaker Anita Among's directive and will proceed to write a report which they table on the floor of Parliament soon for further debate.