10 November 2006

Uganda: NFA Gets New Board

Kampala — THE Ministry of Water and Environment has appointed a seven-member board to replace the old National Forestry Authority board of directors, amid controversy that the move is illegal.

Officially, the board is supposed to be composed of seven members. The minister is supposed to appoint six members to the board. The seventh one who is the executive director is appointed at the recommendation of the board.

The former minister for lands, Baguma Isoke, has been appointed to chair the new NFA board with six others, who include Ms Sarah Nkonge, Mr Buyinnza Mudalazi, Mr Michael Angol, Ms Christine Amongin Aporu, Maj. David Matovu and Dr Wilson Kasolo.

The six members were sworn in yesterday at the NFA headquarters by Mutagamba, apart from Mudalasi whom the minister said was out of the country.

Daily Monitor on November 2, reported that the government was planning to dissolve the NFA board before the tenure of some the board members elapsed.

And, that the ministry was in the process of instituting a new board following the resignation of two members and the expiry of the term of office of the board chair.

The move came in the wake of the controversy that preceded the old board's strong resistance to the issuance of permits to investors eyeing public natural forestland including President Yoweri Museveni's directive to allocate part of Mabira Central Forest Reserve to a sugar corporation and Kalangala Forest to an edible oil company Bidco.

The Minister of Water and Environment, Ms Maria Mutagamba, had earlier last month written to the old NFA board members telling them that their term of office was expiring on October 15.

She told them that the government was in the process of instituting a new board.

However, sources said that it was not possible for all the members to have their terms expiring at the same time.

The NFA board is supposed to have seven members, and three of them have three-year contracts, and four have two-year contracts.

Daily Monitor learnt that, always, three old board members from the previous board remain on a current board to pass over institutional memory, as the four go.

And, it was wrong for the minister to assert that the board's term expired on October 15.

Officially, three board members were to have their terms expiring on October 15. Four members were to remain including NFA's Executive Director Olav Bjella whose term expires in January.

He has a three-year non renewable contract.

Mutagamba confirmed yesterday while inaugurating the new board that the term of office for some of old board members had expired on October 15. But, Cabinet had found it necessary to overhaul the whole old board. And, for the last two months, Cabinet has been deciding on whom to nominate the new board.

Mutagamba said much as the old board had performed, there was need for a new board to come in and take over the burden.

"We are all aware that we are at cross roads in management of forests. The old board was very good, did their work and we need to move on," she told a press conference yesterday. "We now need different cadres for the remaining job. There are more issues to handle other than Kalangala and Mabira. You get people to do the job. The government had to get people who understand what to do, why and how to do it."

Isoke said, "Zeroing on Mabira, that debate will end, if land is found that is ecologically similar or better than Mabira, then it can be exchanged."

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