By Richard Kintu
The southern white rhinos are part of the long list of Uganda’s rich fauna. And like many endangered species world over, these can only be found in a specific area. In Uganda— and the entire Africa— these rhinos are only found at Ziwa Rhino sanctuary. According to the rhino fund Uganda website, the sanctuary is conveniently located 176km (100 miles) north of Kampala on the Gulu highway towards Murchison Falls. Interested visitors have to branch off at Nakitoma Trading centre in Nakasongola district. On top of its staple rhino trekking, the sanctuary has become increasingly popular for auxiliary attractions including Shoebill Trekking, Canoe Rides, Bird Watching, Night Walk, Nature Walk and Relaxation among others.
And what’s more is that visitors there do not have to cut their adventures short as they worry about catching the next bus to Kampala. The sanctuary has the exquisite Amka Lodges that provide top notch accommodation while those that want to further their experience can opt for the tents provided as part of the sanctuary’s camping menu.
WRANGLES THE REAL BLIGHT
All the above said however, such experiences are being threatened by a protracted wrangle that has dragged on for years now between Ugandan tycoon, Capt. Joseph Charles Roy, and Rhino Fund Uganda Executive Director Angella Genade aka Angie Genade.
For some time now, this feud has been big fodder for the local media thus becoming a point of interest for tourism enthusiasts in the country and beyond. In this expose, The Second Opinion digs deep into this saga to trace its origins and what it means for the country’s tourism industry.
Speaking through his lawyer Richard Omongole of Omongole & Company Advocates last year, Capt. Roy in a press conference held at his Conrad house revealed that the rhino project was borne out of passion to conserve animals but it was Angella spoiling this endeavor with her shady methods of work.
This press conference followed media reports in which Angella was quoted expressing fears that the rhinos were under threat of extinction as Roy had ordered their removal from the sanctuary.
He then went on to trace how he hatched the path of the rhinos’ reintroduction to Uganda.
“In 2002, a lady called Yvonne Vierkaik of RFU approached me and persuaded me to become a conservationist. She then proposed that we reintroduce Rhinos into Uganda and have them housed at my ranch in Nakasongola,” he said. To implement the new project, Capt. Roy bought another ranch at Kiryana, Masindi and moved over 7000 animals he had at Nakitooma Ranch. He also acquired more cows from now minister Ephraim Kamuntu, spending over Shs7bn on this exercise. To fortify the sanctuary, he built an electric perimeter fence around the entire sanctuary land using proceeds from an international fundraising drive that he spearheaded alongside his daughter Wendy Roy and Yvonne. Part of the fundraising activities included a boat rowing event from Munyonyo to Mwanza whose entire proceeds were given to RFU to translocation and care of the initial 4 Rhinos from Kenya and another 2 from USA.
Enter Angie genade
With the project having taken shape, Roy constructed all the houses at the sanctuary, drilled boreholes, water dips among other projects at the rhino sanctuary. But to ensure even smoother operations, he, in 2010, entered a Concession agreement with Angella’s husband Genade to operate a lodge at the Ranch (Amuka Lodge).
Roy made this agreement by virtue of position as a pioneer RFU board member. This board also comprised three other Roy family members and it was the one that recruited the previous 4 Executive Directors of RFU. Later however, Angella’s husband, Mr. Genade died and Roy passed on the full responsibility of running RFU to Angie who by that time was operating a supermarket in Masindi town. As such, Angie was supposed to further the agreement between Capt. Roy and D&D International, a company owned by Angella and her family. As per agreement terms, the firm was to pay 10% of gross income from the lodge, 10% from the Restaurant to Roy from 2010.
It was also to pay another 10% from accommodation and 10% from the restaurant to RFU as Capt. Roy’s contribution to the welfare of the Rhinos.
In a press statement issued last year, Roy’s lawyer Omongole revealed that Angella has since reneged on the promises and this forms the crux of the current standoff. He said; “To date, not a shilling has been paid by D&D International or Angella’s family to JCR and family. Instead D & D International created another illegal company called Amuka Lodge Ltd to run activities of the Lodge and in the process committed the following crimes; Dodged paying taxes to the Government of Uganda. Angella and her family work on the lodge without permits (Angella has NGO Permit not business).” Omongole also accused Angella of signing an illegal agreement with RFU to dodge payment of 10% to RFU creating a conflict of interest.
Following fruitless attempts to recover their own share of the rhino money, Capt. Roy’s family got a shocker when they learnt that Angela had made inquiries with the Nakasongola district land board with the aim of taking over the sanctuary land.
“All the above and the issue of nonpayment, forced Roy in November 2017 to write to Angie notifying her of his intention to terminate the Concession with both RFU and D & D International.
However, instead of quitting, Angella through Ssekabanja & Co. Advocates and Openyi & Co. Advocates, ran to the Commercial Court Arbitration department and filed injunctions stopping Roy from terminating her contract. Thereafter, she immediately put a caveat on the 16,000 Acres of land using her company secretary, a one Kamahoro.
Following the ensuing full scale war, Angella denied Capt. Roy and his family access to the land, thereby denying them the right to upgrade their lodge and Ranch.
The tensions were heightened when Police — prompted by Angella — arrested Capt. Roy on allegations of possessing illegal guns. This was despite her knowing that the tycoon had licenses for the guns purely for security of the Rhinos. At this rate, Capt. Roy sought the intervention of some Board Members from RFU.
Subsequently, in a May 21, 2018 meeting, Roy and his team demanded among other things; Angella’s immediate removal from the ED post. This was premised on the following concerns;
Angella had taken over the role of the Board by reducing Roy and his family from RFU Board Members to ex-officios. Others included attempting to grab the sanctuary land as well as racism— an allegation that was communicated to Roy from California.
Consequently, the Board requested for first, 10 days, and later 90 days to effect this termination. This undertaking happened in the presence of UWA and Ministry of Tourism representatives. However, the board backtracked on their promise at the end of the 90 days; pointing to their control by Angie.
Early this year, the RFU saga was brought to the attention of the president, who is a keen follower of the happenings in the country’s tourism sector. We have established that the
matter reached the President when the Nakasongola district leaders led by RDC Dan Muganga and LC5 boss Sam Kigula petitioned the president to intervene in the matter to save the rhino and the district’s tourism revenue that was being threatened by Capt. Roy. This was after this group held several meetings with Angie and Uganda Rhino Fund Chairperson David Makobore. On learning about such meetings that were well facilitated by RFU with hefty allowances to the entire district council, Capt. Roy through his brother Fred Lwanga sought to have a meeting with the same council. However, the RDC vehemently refused. On April 13, 2019 for instance, he even deployed heavy security and dispersed a meeting that the Nakitoma village LCI boss Suleiman Mubiru and his executive had convened to address the residents on the rhino sanctuary matters. This was after information that the meeting was to be attended by Capt. Roy’s family members led by his brother Fred Lwanga. “We just wanted to sensitize the residents on exactly what is happening in this saga so that no one hoodwinks them into acts of violence. This was after we learnt that the rhinos which are our primary concern are not under threat,” Mubiru told the second opinion.
In response however, Capt. Roy through his lawyers also petitioned the president seeking to be heard.
“President Yoweri Museveni, Captain Joseph Charles Roy seeks the last court of opinion’s intervention into a conflict between his family company trading as Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch (ZRWR) and a South African ‘investor’ and MD of Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU),” in part read Capt Roy’s letter titled matters of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (the conflict).
Responding to the two parties, the President summoned a meeting on March 21, 2019 to resolve this impasse.
Unfortunately, the meeting was postponed to April 30, as the president was preparing for the launch of the new Isimba Dam power plant.
We have since learnt that for the April 30 meeting, Capt. Roy was represented by his lawyer Omongole, daughter Wendy Roy, as well as some other family members. On the other hand, Angie was flanked by the Nakasongola LC5 boss, RDC, Nakitoma LC3 boss while also in attendance were: tourism minister Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda wildlife ED, minister of tourism PS. Angie side also had David Makobore, the acting URF chairperson who assumed his roles following a stint in Tanzania where he operated a string of butcheries. It has emerged that in her presentation, Angie admitted not remitting money to Capt. Roy, a thing she attributed to her failure to see him for a long time now. In response however, Roy’s lawyer Omongole convinced the president that Angie just deliberately refused to give Roy his share of the Rhino Fund revenues given the ongoing ploy to finally grab his land. The lawyer also adduced evidence of how Angie is depriving the Ugandan government of revenue through dodging taxes and under declaring revenues. This, Omongole told the president, is possible because Angie usurped almost all powers of the Rhino Fund which she runs highhanded with minimal or no checks and balances.
We have learnt that after listening to both sides, the president — crushing Angie and her cabal’s hearts — pronounced that Roy cannot lose his land because it is listed as private property. He then advised that the two parties sit and look at the possibility of reconciliation. This was however out rightly rejected by Capt. Roy’s side on grounds that it has extended many olive branches to Angie in vain and is now eternally suspicious of her intentions towards them. At that point, our sources say, the president called for a calm and mature exit strategy for Angie. This, the president explained, is aimed at maintaining investor confidence as well as leaving room for any eventual agreement in future. In his submission however, Omongole told the president that the hostilities were being fuelled by some of his (state house) officials who they learnt are mooting a plot to have Roy left with no chance other than accepting any compensation from government. Upon this, the president assigned state house legal head Kiconco to oversee investigations into this matter. By press time however, we had learnt that the report is yet to be made despite reports that Angie’s fixers are now mooting a plot to adduce what they call evidence pointing to the fact that Capt. Roy sold the land to another company. It has emerged that meetings geared towards this effort sit at locations including Protea Hotel, Café Javas in Kampala and Oval Bar in Entebbe. There’s further evidence of mobile money transactions to Nakasongola district local leaders from RFU fixers.
NB: Details of RFU shadowy registration in the next issue!