About five days ago, Ziwa Rhino, Wildlife Ranch Limited and Captain Joseph Charles Roy, the owner of the land on which the sanctuary is located, asked the Rhino Fund Uganda to vacate the place which sits on about 62 square kilometres of land.
Rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary . Photo by RFU
Rhino Fund Uganda has petitioned the High Court in Kampala
seeking an interim order to stay an eviction notice from the White Rhino Sanctuary
in Nakasongola district.
Ziwa Rhino, Wildlife Ranch Limited and Captain Joseph
Charles Roy, the owner of the land on which the sanctuary is located, asked the Rhino Fund Uganda to vacate the place which sits on about 62 square kilometres of land. In a letter dated April 16, 2021, Captain Roy said that the Rhino
Fund no longer had business at the sanctuary since Uganda Wildlife
Authority had revoked their license.
"Reference is made to the Uganda Wildlife Authority's
letter dated January 21, 2021, where you were informed of the
revocation of your permit to look after rhinos on behalf of the government of
the Republic of Uganda if you did not agree with the Landlord Captain Joseph
Charles Roy on the way forward" reads the letter in part.
It adds that after the failure by the two sides to resolve the impasse, the sanctuary had no option by to leave the land immediately. "By copy of this letter, Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch are asking Uganda
Wildlife Authority the length of time you need in order to remove your animals
from our land. This should not be later than the 23rd day of April 2021.
But according to the Rhino Fund, through its Board Chairperson, Vincent Opyene,
the respondents, Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch Limited and Captain Roy breached
the contract by cancelling their license and therefore if an interim order is not
granted, they will suffer irreparable damages.
In his affidavit, Opyene says that on August 20, 2002, they signed a
license agreement with Ziwa Ranchers Limited as the licensor and the proprietor of
the land Captain Roy on the said land comprised in leasehold and Mailo titles. The evidence before the court indicates that the said license agreement was to
establish and run a rhino sanctuary on the land for a period of 30 years.
Following the license agreement, they had to invest
heavily in terms of infrastructure development; fencing off the land,
putting up sanctuary buildings and establishing sanctuary road networks,
extending electricity and establishing a school within the sanctuary to serve
the neighbouring community. They also put in 33 rhinos and employed more than
But on October 16, 2017, they were served
with a termination notice from Omongole and company Advocates acting on behalf
of the respondents terminating the license agreement between the parties. According to the court records, the NGO reportedly filed a case in the land
division in 2019 challenging the illegal termination of its license and on September 18, 2020, this was withdrawn following the intervention of President
URN has seen a letter by the President to the EU Ambassador,
Atilio Pacific informing him that the parties had agreed to resolve all the
disputes in order to maintain a Rhino Sanctuary on the land with support from
the government. He said the parties had agreed to execute a Memorandum of Understanding as the government continues to support conservation and tourism.
"Contrary to the MoU, by letter dated December 16, 2020, the respondents through their lawyers communicated to the
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities unreasonably
accusing RFU of failure to implement the MoU." Accordingly, the respondents
demanded that the government finds another place and relocate the Rhinos.
Evidence before the court also indicates that following the government's intervention
and Uganda Wildlife Authority, Rhino Fund Uganda(RFU) and the respondents have been engaged in
several mediation meetings until April 15, 2021, when the respondents allegedly without any basis withdrew their
participation in the mediation exercise.
"On the same day, the respondents hired 'goons' who
vandalized several properties belonging to RFU and attempted to illegally evict
RFU from the sanctuary. This illegal eviction was averted following police
intervention and all culprits were arrested and several criminal charges have
been preferred against them vide CRB 253/2021”, the documents indicate.
Rhino Fund Uganda adds that the respondents also on April 16, 2021,
the threatened closure of the sanctuary and
demanded government to remove the animals not later than April 23rd 2021. As such, through their lawyers of Kamahoro, Kiboome and Kirunda Advocates on
behalf of Rhino Fund Uganda wants the court to block the eviction until the
determination suit which it is challenging the breach of the memorandum of
The Civil Division Registrar Jamson Karemani has fixed April 23, 2021
to hear the case. On Tuesday, Uganda Wildlife Authority released a statement closing Ziwa
Sanctuary from the public until further notice stating that it had realized
that the conflicts between the parties could potentially compromise the safety
of the rhinos.