Thursday, October 22, 2009



Wednesday, 21st October, 2009
By Herbert Ssempogo

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has ordered the National Forestry Authority chief, Damian Akankwasa, to vacate office to allow for investigation into the sh900m he alleged was stolen from his home.

In a letter issued yesterday, Museveni directed water and environment minister Maria Mutagamba to relieve Akankwasa of his duties for three months. He said the Criminal Investigations Department and the Inspector General of Government would “inquire into the mystery”.

“I have seen in the papers that Mr. Damian Akwankwasa of NFA was found with 900 million shillings in his house. This is quite a bit of money. I would, however, like to know how he got this money,” the President said.

“Therefore, I am now directing you to send Mr. Akankwasa on a three-month leave. During that time, Akankwasa should have no access to the NFA offices.”

He gave the two offices up to January 30, 2010 to produce their report.

The President copied the letter to the Prime Minister, Minister for the Presidency, the acting Inspector General of Government and the Inspector General of Police. The information about Akankwasa’s suspension first emerged in Sunday Vision.

The Presidential directive then was reportedly verbal. Addressing the press in Kampala on Tuesday, Mutagamba and NFA board chairman, Baguma Isoke, said they had not received the directive. They added that the sh900m did not belong to NFA, although they would investigate its source as well as the recent theft of tree seeds worth sh300m.

According to Akankwasa, the money belonged to him and his brothers and was meant to buy a plot of land in Kawempe, a Kampala suburb at sh1b.

At the time the money went missing, the siblings had raised sh900m and were hunting for an extra sh100m to pay for the land.

However, before the deal was clinched, someone stole the money reported to have been in three suitcases in the bedroom.

Following the theft, the NFA boss accused his wife, Juliet Katusiime, of stealing it. Katusiime was arraigned before the City Hall magistrate over theft.

Who is Akankwasa, the man in the storm?

By Gerald Tenywa

Damian Akankwasa, a Makerere University graduate, started his career in the forestry department two decades ago. He fell out with his bosses in Masindi district in 1994 over illegal logging in Budongo forest reserve. He was then moved to the headquarters of the forestry department in Nakawa, Kampala.

However, the transfer, described by his colleagues as a demotion, locally referred to as katebe, did not drain the steam from Akankwasa. He improved his resume with a masters degree in business administration.

When the forestry department clocked 100 years in 1998, conservationists felt it was time to reform it. There were new policies on poverty alleviation and the forestry policy was thought to be archaic. So, Akankwasa was recalled from katebe to be part of the team to undertake the reforms.

Akankwasa worked diligently at the Uganda Forestry Coordination Secretariat and churned out a new forestry policy and law. In 2004, his work gave birth to the National Forestry Authority (NFA), one of the three institutions which replaced the forestry department. This was a bright spot on Akankwasa’s track record.

He was soon after recruited by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), where he later became the director of tourism development. Some speculators thought he would soon get to the helm of the conservation body as executive director. But Akankwasa cut his stay at UWA and returned to the forestry sector.

Following the push by President Yoweri Museveni to give away part of Mabira Forest to Mehta for sugar cane growing and Bugala to BIDCO for palm oil, NFA lost four directors and the executive director, Olav Bjella.

Akankwasa bounced back to the sector as the executive director of NFA in June 2007.

His “second life” in forestry brought him at loggerheads with Samwiri Rwabwogo, who was the coordinator of the law enforcement unit.

Rwabwogo, in what he called a “dossier about forestry in Uganda”, said some forestry bosses, including some on the board of trustees, were engaged illegal logging of timber.