Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has received a landmark court ruling in its favor against Godfrey Kaganda who sued the authority for negligence after a fire allegedly originating from Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve destroyed his forest.
The Judgement in the case of Godfrey Kaganda Vs Uganda Wildlife Authority, Civil Suit No. 009 of 2018 was delivered on October 27, 2021, by Justice Vincent Emmy Mugabo of Fort Portal High Court exonerating Uganda Wildlife Authority, setting a precedent for fire outbreaks near Protected areas.
Mr. Godfrey Kaganda sued UWA in 2018 claiming that the agency had failed to manage a fire it had started in Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. He alleged that the fire had escaped from the Wildlife Reserve and burnt approximately 17.2 acres of a eucalyptus plantation on his farm. Mr. Kaganda alleged that as a result, he had suffered great loss, pain, inconvenience, and frustration. He prayed to the court to be awarded special damages of UGX 203,580,000/=, general damages of negligence, and an interest rate of 18% per annum as well as costs of the suit.
High court Justice Vincent Emmy Mugabo dismissed the case and exonerated UWA due to a lack of evidence indicating that UWA started the fire or that the fire originated from the Wildlife Reserve. The Judge also exonerated UWA on all allegations of being negligent in managing the fire. The case was dismissed and Mr. Godfrey Kaganda was ordered to pay costs incurred by UWA in litigating the case.
Commenting on the verdict, UWA ED Sam Mwandha expressed happiness that the organization has been exonerated. He said that people who suffer losses occasioned by fires should not just conclude that UWA is responsible. He explained that fires can be sparked off by many things including natural causes but people are quick to accuse the institution. “We work with a degree of professionalism and we care about people neighboring protected areas because they are our key stakeholders.
We do not desire to see their property destroyed. Some of them call us whenever they have fire outbreaks and we help them put them out,” he said. ED Mwandha retaliated against the need for community support for wildlife conservation emphasizing that UWA will continue to work towards having good relationships with all stakeholders.