The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) board of trustees has directed Dr. Andrew Seguya, the executive director of the top wildlife body in the country to step aside to pave way for investigations into the theft of 1,355kgs of ivory from UWA’s strongroom.
A source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the decision to suspend Seguya was reached yesterday after a lengthy and heated board meeting, which went on until late in the night.
This comes days after the suspension of five lower staff from the law enforcement department at UWA.
The offi cers suspended earlier are Moses Olinga, the warden law enforcement, Moses Sikuku, the head ranger and John Lopeyo, the clerk to the armoury.
Others are two enforcement offi cers, Louise Muhumuza and William Echemu. Seguya has been at the helm of UWA since 2010.
He also worked at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, formerly Entebbe Zoo from where he was transferred to UWA in an acting capacity, at the turn of this decade.
A week ago New Vision broke the story, which has caused public debate and anger among conservationists and the private sector dealing in wildlife-based tourism.
This was after an audit by UWA in which 1,335kg of ivory was found missing from the strongroom.
The stolen ivory is estimated at $1.1m (880,000 euros or sh3b).
Last week, President Yoweri Museveni asked the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate the disappearance of the ivory seized from poachers and wildlife traffi ckers since 1990.
On Monday, Maria Mutagamba, the Minister of Tourism wrote to the chairperson of the board of trustees, Ben Otto, asking the board to take action.
“It is my considered opinion, unless otherwise advised, to suspend the chief executive officer (Seguya) and internal auditor and to recommend the return of both the Colonel and Major (UPDF officers heading UWA’s law enforcement) to their parent ministry to pave way for investigations,” she said.
Two days ago MPs called for the suspension of Seguya on grounds that this would reduce interference with the team from the IGG that is going to undertake the investigations.