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Tag Archives: Interpol
Cameras caught the distraught ranger, rifle in hand, crying as he stood desolately over the animal, which still had blood oozing from its wounds.
“It was a mixture of emotion and bitterness,” explains Wanyama, 24. “At that moment I would not have spared any of the poachers. I almost lost my mind at the sight of the carcass of the animal, which was everybody’s favourite at the park.”
He adds that he had developed a close attachment to the animal during the period he had served at the park.
For Wanyama, painful memories of the friendly animal was the last straw.
The ruthlessness of the poaching cartels and the number of KWS officers whose lives have been cut short by the ruthless gangs had made him a bitter and worried man, hence his sadness at the death of the elephant that Sundaymorning.
“Looking at the carcass of such an animal is like waking up in the morning and finding your boss dead and realising that in a short time you face the possibility of being jobless.
The government has given me a gun and houses me to look after the animals. I felt let down,” he explains.
That morning, as Wayama and his colleagues patrolled the forest, they heard gunshots.
They headed in the direction from which the shots had come and soon came across the animal that had been killed. They interrupted the poachers because the tusks had only been partially removed.
“The poachers must have been on the alert and fled when they heard us approaching,” he says.
The fleeing poachers left food, assorted pairs of shoes, and a tent, an indication that they were so sure they would not be detected that they had camped in the forest.
The slain elephant was the biggest of the herd and, according to Wanyama, very friendly to tourists.
“He was not hostile and many people loved him because, instead of running away the way the others did, he would move closer, causing great excitement among the visitors,” he recalls.
Although some of Wanyama’s friends viewed his reaction as extreme and teased him about mourning an elephant, recent statistics on the poaching of elephants and rhinos in the country is no laughing matter.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) acting director William Kiprono says that in the past three months, poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants. Last year, the country lost 59 rhinos and 302 elephants to poaching, while in 2012 it lost 30 rhinos and 384 elephants to the criminal gangs.
“We attribute the problem of poaching in Kenya and the rest of Africa to growing demand and the high prices being offered for rhino horn and elephant tusks in Far East countries as the ready market continues to spur the illegal sale of ivory and rhino horns,” he says, adding that poachers not only use sophisticated weapons, but have resorted to silent methods, which makes it difficult for rangers on patrol to detect their presence.
In parks such as Lake Nakuru, the rising water levels have caused grazing land for rhinos to shrink, forcing the animals to move to areas near the edge of the park, making them easy targets for poachers.
Besides, Lake Nakuru is located in a cosmopolitan area, so poachers easily sneak into the park, kill rhinos, and disappear into the town undetected.
Kiprono says KWS has adopted a multifaceted strategy that brings together law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary, and the community in an attempt to curb the menace.
“We have increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, both in the region and internationally, to ensure more robust intelligence gathering. The collaboration includes follow-ups on suspected poaching gangs, surveillance at all ports of entry and exit, and overt operations in wildlife areas,” he offers.
His views are echoed by Mr Aggrey Maumo, the KWS assistant director in charge of the Mountain conservation area, who says that poaching of rhinos and elephants is conducted by a complex web and that what they are fighting is just the low end of it.
“The main movers and shakers of this trade are very powerful people who have created very complex syndicates. It will take more than our efforts alone to crack it. All Kenyans must work with the authorities if we are to succeed,” he says.
According to a report released by the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) last month, the high prices that ivory fetches continue to drive the trade.
The reports reads in part: “With ivory’s market value reaching $900 (Sh77,400) per kilogramme in China, the financial stakes are high, and it appears sponsors are adopting bold new tactics to satisfy demand.”
“One criminal syndicate will gather a poaching gang together and that poaching gang will be assigned instructions to kill a specific herd of elephants or to provide a specific amount of ivory,” says Mr William Clark of Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme.
“We are alive to the fact that wildlife, particularly rhinos and elephants, are increasingly becoming vulnerable because of high demand for their horns and ivory respectively. Poaching of this prized wildlife has become more organised, sophisticated, and international in nature,” Clark adds.
Despite the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, which stipulates tough punishment for those convicted of poaching — including life imprisonment or a Sh20 million fine — the trade continues unabated.
Yet for people like Wanyama, the loss of every animal counts. He says the long and lonely hours spent in the wild with the animals not only make the rangers attached to them, it also allows the officers to know the individual character of some of the animals.
“Their behaviour is very similar to that of human beings; some are reserved while others are hostile. Yet others can decide to be naughty, always looking for the slightest opportunity to cause destruction,” he enthuses.
The ranger believes that his destiny with wild animals was determined when his parents named him Wanyama, which is Kiswahili for animals.
“My parents might have had cultural reasons for naming me Wanyama, but throughout school, fellow students often referred to me as a wild animal. Those are the things that shaped my destiny,” he says, gazing into the thick bushes.
He explains that in his Bukusu community, the name Wanyama is given to a boy born during the circumcision period, a time during which people make merry and, therefore, most homes with initiates have meat in plenty.
And when KWS advertised for recruits, he applied and was successful. After training, he was posted to the Aberdare National Park, where he has served for three years.
“When I was employed, I knew that my responsibilities were to sustain, manage, and conserve wildlife. When one of your biggest animals dies, and if they continue dying at this rate, KWS will have no role in this country as there will no longer be any wildlife to conserve,” he laments.
He acknowledges that looking after the animals is an enormous task.
The rugged terrain, poachers who are getting more sophisticated by the day, and inadequate staff are some of the challenges Wanyama and his colleagues have to contend with daily. It is a job to which he gives his all irrespective of the weather, so it pains him when poachers kill an animal.
Wanyama says he has developed such a strong attachment to the wildlife that he would not trade his gun for any other profession. At home he keeps cows, goats, and doves.
Indeed, Maumo says that some of the rangers get so attached to the wildlife that when an animal is killed, they get deeply affected.
“We are aware that the officers work under difficult conditions but encourage them and try as much as possible to address the issues that arise from time to time.
“But wildlife conservation is not the responsibility of KWS alone. We are engaging with the neighbouring villages to help us fight the poachers,” he says.
Maumo says poachers have created an elaborate syndicate that calls for a multi-pronged approach to deal with.
It is notable that even as he talks of the involvement of criminal gangs, Kiprono acknowledges that 17 KWS employees have been fired over poaching, while 13 others were retired in the public interest, an indication that some insiders could be collaborating with the poachers.
And as long as that continues, poaching will remain a hard nut to crack.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Number of rhinos killed since January
Number of elephants killed since January
Number of elephants killed in 2013
Cost per kilogramme of ivory in China. 3.5 tonnes of ivory were seized in Mombasa last year!
Elephants are known to be highly social and intelligent creatures.
And now there is evidence that they engage in something like a group hug when a fellow elephant is in distress.
Mr Joshua Plotnick, who leads a conservation and education group called Think Elephants and teaches conservation at Mahidol University in Thailand, studied elephants at a park in Chiang Rai Province in Thailand to look for consolation behaviour.
As defined by Franz de Waal, Plotnick’s PhD adviser at Emory University, “Consolation behaviour involves bystanders responding in a reassuring way to an animal that is in emotional distress because of a conflict with another member of the group.”
“We’re pretty confident it’s relatively rare in animals,” Plotnick said in an interview, adding that there was evidence of the behaviour in apes, wolves, and some birds, and that there had been anecdotal reports of such behaviour in dolphins and elephants.
Elephants clearly have strong emotional connections to other elephants and are highly intelligent, so it made sense to think that they might console one another. To find out, Plotnick observed 26 elephants in six groups at a managed park.
When one elephant was disturbed, he said, other elephants gathered around it. They made high-pitched sounds and touched the distressed elephant, trunk to mouth or trunk to genitals, which are reassuring gestures among elephants.
Plotnick said that since he could not always observe the original source of the distress, he could not say that the behaviour met the narrow definition of consolation as it was not clear whether it followed conflict.
The elephants might have been scared by a person, dog, or, in some cases, a noise that humans could not hear. But he said that in every other way, the behaviour showed that they were acting to reassure the elephant that was upset.
Organised crime gangs generate staggering profits smuggling ivory and rhino horn
Published: 15:33 March 23, 2014
Nairobi: Organised crime gangs in East Africa are generating staggering profits smuggling ivory and rhino horn with impunity, experts say, threatening both an irreplaceable wildlife heritage and key tourism industries.
Kenyan and Tanzanian ports are the “primary gateway” for ivory smuggled to Asia, where demand is fuelled by increasingly affluent markets, especially in China, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns.
Last year, seizures of ivory shipments reached “record levels”, according to a recent Interpol report.
“Large-scale ivory shipments — each one representing the slaughter of hundreds of elephants — point to the involvement of organised crime networks operating across multiple countries,” Interpol said.
Organised gangs with insider knowledge and armed with automatic weapons and specialised equipment such as night vision goggles, brazenly use chainsaws to carve out the rhino horn or remove elephant tusks.
Veteran Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey has now warned that drastic action must be taken, saying that known ringleaders in Kenya are operating with “outrageous impunity”.
The rise in poaching, with animals being slaughtered inside even the most heavily guarded national parks or conservation areas, show that the poachers have little fear of tough new laws designed to stem the wave of killings, he said.
“They could not operate with the impunity we are seeing if you did not have some form of protection from law enforcement agencies,” Leakey said, as he made an appeal for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to take action.
“It is a problem of a few criminals… the ringleaders are known,” he added, claiming that a core group of around 20 to 30 people were organising the mass poaching but that none had faced justice.
It’s a lucrative business: a kilo of ivory is worth some $850 (Dh3,121) in Asia, with UNODC suggesting ivory smuggled to Asia from Eastern Africa was worth over $31 million in 2011.
But such short-term and finite profits generated by the spate of killings are threatening the far more valuable tourism industry, which in Kenya and Tanzania is the second largest foreign exchange earner after agriculture.
“The African elephant is not currently deemed ‘endangered’ as a species, but its decimation in Eastern Africa could be devastating,” UNODC’s report read.
“In addition to the reduction in genetic diversity, its loss could seriously undermine local tourist revenues, a key source of foreign exchange for many of the countries of the region.”
But the region’s two large container ports — Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania — are also notorious trafficking hubs, funnelling more elephant tusks to Asia than all of central, southern and west African nations combined.
The two nations made up almost two-thirds of all large shipments of ivory seized across the entire continent from 2009-2011, according to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), a tracking database run by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
Seizures of containers crammed full of tusks — often hidden under foul-smelling fish or dried chili peppers in a bid to confuse sniffer dogs or discourage detailed searches — are regularly found.
Much of the ivory smuggled is destined for China, whose rapidly growing economy has encouraged those enjoying disposable income to splash out on an ivory trinket as a sign of financial success.
“Growing affluence in China, where possession of elephant ivory remains a status symbol, appears to have rendered China the world’s leading destination for illicit ivory,” the UNODC report added.
The smuggling of rhino horns is a bigger problem for Southern Africa, which has far more of the endangered animals. It is often done by air, due to the value of the horn and its smaller size.
But scores of East African rhinos are also being killed despite wildlife rangers often risking their lives to protect them.
But many escape justice: a recent study by the Kenyan conservation campaign group Wildlife Direct found that just four percent of those convicted of wildlife crime in the past spent time in jail.
Tanzania last year launched a crackdown on suspected poachers, operating under what was reported to be a shoot-to-kill policy and making sweeping arrests.
Leakey, 69, a Kenyan national and former head of the government’s Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), said with the “right management” stemming the poaching was “not an impossible” task.
He was key in stemming the rampant poaching of the late 1980s, bringing in extreme measures to combat poachers including sending helicopter gunships into national parks, and organising the iconic burning of stockpiled ivory.
“It is not valuable, it is tragic rubbish,” Leakey said, waving an ivory carving seized from a smuggler, the tiny tusk of a baby elephant.
“It is putting at risk our heritage… you can regrow a crop but you cannot regrow a wildlife species that disappears.”
This article can be found in this link:
Richard Leakey calls on President Kenyatta to invoke Emergency Response on Elephant and Rhino poaching
19 March 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:Dr Richard Leakey, Founder –WildlifeDirect, firstname.lastname@example.org
“My fellow Kenyans, poaching and the destruction of our environment has no future in this country”
These were the words of President Uhuru Kenyatta at his inauguration almost exactly one year ago. Today in the year of the 50th anniversary of Kenyan independence, I am asking the president to put his words into action and declare a NATIONAL DISASTER. I ask him to invoke emergency measures to crack down on the poachers and to declare elephants and rhinos National Treasures under protection of the state. In 1989, President Daniel Arap Moi took such extraordinary measures and wildlife poaching was curbed within 6 months. I am certain that this can be achieved again.
Elephants and rhinos declining in Kenya
Though KWS are not making information public, already this year we have lost at least 14 rhinos, more than in the whole of last year. Rhinos have been gunned down in our national parks, often in broad daylight and from sites close to ranger posts. Rhinos have also been lost from heavily fortified private conservancies that were believed impregnable. KWS estimates the population of Kenyan rhinos at more than 1,000 of which just over 50% are in the National Parks. However, independent scientists doubt this figure and question the data – 38 rhinos that have not been seen for more than 3 years are still in the parks are still counted in the total. An independent audit of rhinos is conducted in all conservancies but not parks.
KWS report that fewer than 400 elephants are killed annually across the country. The results of a KWS census last month reveal that the elephant population in the Tsavo Ecosystem alone has fallen by 1,500 over 4 years. The census found 800 elephant carcasses.
Newspaper coverage and conservationists in the field also report that elephant are being shot and killed in Tsavo, Masai Mara, and Amboseli and other parks by poachers armed with automatic weapons. Many others are shot with poison arrows, causing unimaginable pain followed by slow death.
Kenya is the world’s hub for ivory smuggling
The latest Interpol report reveals that Kenya is now No. 1 in the world for ivory smuggling. The port of Mombasa serves as a staging post for ivory from Tanzania and many other countries. More than 13 tons of ivory were seized in Kenya last year and we can only speculate at the quantities that passed through undetected.
A study of trials in Kenya reveal that fewer than 4% of all convicted poachers are ever jailed. Interpol reveal that despite many ivory seizures in Kenya, no dealers have ever been arrested and prosecuted in court. A major rhino horn smugglers caught at JKIA was released. A Chinese ivory dealer was sent back to China. If a Kenyan threatened a Chinese Panda bear, he or she would face life imprisonment.
Current measures are not enough
Despite our best efforts, the new law, the creation of an elite force in KWS, the promises of the Judiciary and DPP, and the commitment stated by the President, our elephants and rhinos are being massacred across the nation.
Tough new laws that mean convicted poachers and traffickers can be given life sentences,have not resulted in a single offender jailed without the option of a fine. In a recent case a Chinese man was arrested in Riverside Drive where he was manufacturing ivory carvings and sending them out of Kenya through Chinese mules who are being sent to Kenya as “tourists”. He was sent back to China without ever going to a Kenyan court. Last week the court acquitted Chinese national, Ou Kai Ming, even though he had been caught red-handed by customs officials at JKIA.
On the ground poachers have a free rein in many places. KWS staff who attempt to do their job are under increasing threat of violence and at least 8 KWS rangers have lost their lives to poachers in recent years. Managers who allow poaching to happen on their watch are simply moved to other locations, instead of being held to account for their dereliction of duty.
Emergency provisions under status as National Disaster
The failure of leadership and resources at KWS is compounded by the failure of the state to recognize that this is not just a wildlife crime. The president can no longer ignore the fact that these criminals belong to international crime rings that pose a major threat to the economy and national security. In 1989 President Moi recognized that the country was facing a national crisis and acted presidentially to stop it.
I am calling on the president of the Republic of Kenya to address the problem because our national security agencies are not working together to combat this threat to national security. I am sure that the Ministry, NIS, CID, KWS all know who the top dealers and financiers of this bloody business are. They number fewer than 50 people, some of whom have been exposed in the media, but not one has been arrested to date.
In responding to the threat of piracy Kenya’s performance was exemplary. This is the kind of coordinated, fully committed response we need to the poaching crisis.
The voice and political will of our president are most critically needed if we are to win this war. The Kenyan public, corporations and our international partners will all respond favorably when decisive action is taken. The president cannot afford to leave a legacy for future generations of Kenyans that does not include elephant and rhinos.
Richard Leakey, 19 March 2014
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan NGO and US registered 501(c) (3) organization co-founded in 2004 by Kenyan conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey, who is credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s and delivering an international ban on ivory trade. Kenyan Trustees include Irungu Houghton, Ali Mohamed and Philip Murgor. The CEO is Dr. Paula Kahumbu. WildlifeDirect is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. WildlifeDirect is dedicated to “Changing minds, behavior and laws to ensure Africa’s critical species endure forever.”
Hands Off Our Elephants, our flagship campaign comprises a winning combination of expertise including wildlife ecologists, communications specialists, lawyers, politicians, media representatives, strategists, and linguists, making us bold, influential, and successful. This African led initiative is supported by Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta as patron. The campaign has already mobilized the public in Kenya and driven legal reforms in Kenya and East Africa. WLD partners with civil society, government agencies and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative on elephants.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa
UWA and URA appealed the ruling and Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Maria Mutagamba, also condemned Musene’s ruling in the strongest possible terms, setting in motion a process to remove him from the bench for gross misconduct, if proven guilty of any offence.
The latest twist in this saga was immediately hailed as a huge success by the conservation fraternity in Uganda and like in Kenya, where weak rulings under the new wildlife law caused widespread outrage, also seen as serving notice to magistrates and judges to either join in the fight against poaching or else be treated themselves as poachers of common sense and the tools available to them under existing laws.
THE INCREASING THREAT
Poaching and illegal trade constitute the “most dramatically increasing threat” to the world’s wildlife, particularly for high value or the so-called iconic species like the elephant or rhino, said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a recent interview with Xinhua.
“We are seeing at the moment escalation both in terms of scale and also the violence involved in poaching on the African continent that we have not seen in a long time,” he said.
For example, he said, the threat is so real and serious that particular populations of elephants in certain parts of the continent may not longer be able to survive in 10 or 15 years. The number of rhinoceros is also decreasing dramatically due to rampant poaching, with only about a few thousand remaining in certain parts of Africa.
Governments worldwide have recognized that poaching, illegal trade, criminal networks and even the drug trade are intertwined with each other, posing a combined threat to national and global security. People are being killed in the war over wildlife by heavily armed poachers. Markets are in every different parts of the world while a thirst for monetary gains leads to a major erosion of national capacities to protect wildlife.
“This is why we are seeing these dramatic numbers increasing particularly with elephants and rhino poaching,” said the UNEP chief. “That is something that requires not only legislation, not only security interventions, (but) it requires also public awareness.”
“We need people to know that when you buy a piece of ivory that is illegally traded, you are directly contributing to threatening the survival of that species in due course,” he stressed.
THE UNDERLYING ILLS
At the macroeconomic level, the wildlife populations in Africa are earning African economies and nations a lot of money through tourism that allows the creation of infrastructure and millions of jobs, he said.
“But in the system of national accounting, we don’t really value that contribution of that natural capital to the gross domestic product,” said Steiner.”For that reason, there exists underestimation of the economic value of wildlife at the level of national economic and financial accounting.”
At the same time, in Africa in particular, and in other parts of the world as well, poverty is the major mechanism for those who want to make money to essentially buy people who will be going into the dirty work, including poaching, he said.
“Unfortunately we have seen that the market for ivory particularly in rhino horn have exploded in value. The wealth of the new middle classes allows an amount of money to be transacted in this illegal trade,” he said.
Corruption becomes a major corrosive force in it, with officials in countries being bought, as evidenced in cases time and again around the world. But corruption is not unique either to the continent of Africa, Asia or Latin America, he said. “When there is big money involved, there is corruption. Corruption is essentially eroding the laws and systems that are in place.”
But the most important impact the world can have is the public awareness, he said. “If people say to you why are you wearing ivory? Are you sure you know where ivory came from? It becomes no longer a issue of pride and social status, but rather a liability amongst your friends your community.”
“Then I think the illegal trader would struggle to maintain that kind of economy of crime that allows poaching to sustain itself at the moment,” he said.
“In the end, it is you and I who are buying these ivories. If you are not buying, then the middlemen have no business and the poachers have no incentives, and governments can concentrate on conservation investment on protecting habitats and managing wildlife.”
It is the responsibility for “our generation to protect and to maintain the wildlife for future benefit of our nations and our economies,” he said.
THE FOCUS TO COMBAT
Although in theory there could be authorized trade of wildlife products, like the ivory from elephants died of age or even ivory that is confiscated, right now the focus of most African nations is not so much as trade, but how to combat the illegal trade, he said.
“Therefore our intention both at the international level and in terms of national initiatives is to try to understand who are the people behind these trades. What are the networks they are using. How do they use money to corrupt officials obtaining false permits, certifications that are simply manufactured, and therefore are being used to allow these trades to take place, plus the trade that is hidden from public attention, smuggled in packages of other products, entering through harbors and by road into countries,” he said.
To combat the threat in a holistic and more efficient way, the transit countries, market countries and source countries have to work together,” he said. “That is why the instruments of the international system including the UN, Interpol, conventions are instruments that should allow us to be more effectively united against this illegal trade.”
He called for more support for countries in Africa that do not have the financial resources to fight the illegal trade, like monitoring by aircraft or offshore monitoring, x-ray equipment for custom officials to control the thousands of containers that leave this continent everyday and arrive on this continent.
Partnerships between the developed and developing countries should also be established in order to strengthen the capacity for shutting down the illegal trade, he added.
Stephen Muneza, RedPepper
March 3, 2014
Police has issued two arrest warrants for two businessmen connected to the 832 pieces of ivory that were impounded by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) in October last year.
The arrest warrants have been issued against a Kenyan national Owino Odhiambo, who owns Silver Shipping Limited, a Kenyan registered company that was destined to receive the ivory and also export it to China.
The second arrest warrant is for a Congolese national Kayumba Emile Ogane. Ogane claimed the impounded ivory while it was with the URA. Ogane is the director of Ogane Company Limited which instituted the proceedings in the High Court at Nakawa. Ogane has however never appeared in person in Uganda.
The two arrest warrants have been forwarded to Interpol to arrest and bring the persons for prosecution.
They are wanted for the concealment of ivory that was smuggled through the DRC-Uganda border post of Bunagana. It is alleged that the Ivory was not declared to the customs officials at the border post. The 2.9 tonnes of ivory were being transported in a Congolese trailer registration number CGO 6816 AB19.
Congolese businessman Emile Ogano hired David Ochaya to be his transport agent. Ochaya then used Ocean Freight East Africa Limited containers and delivered the ivory undocumented to the inland container depot at Bweyogerere. While arguing the case before the Nakawa High Court, the lawyers of Emile Ogane said that their client had concealed the goods to hide them from the naked eye of the robbers, an argument that the court judge Masalu Musene accepted.
Last month, the judge ordered URA to return the impounded ivory to Ogane.
Interpol Director Arsan Kasingye said Interpol would embark on the search of the suspects to deliver them to the arms of Justice.
The environmental crime desk of Interpol in Lyon, France has since expressed concern at the fate of the ivory.
To import and export ivory, one has to get a licence from the home country and also a permit to trade in ivory from CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
In October last year, URA impounded a container of 822 pieces of ivory; approximately 2.9 tonnes. The ivory was destined to go to Owino Odhiambo, a Kenyan national. After it was impounded, a Congolese national, Kayumba Emile Ogane claimed the ivory from the URA and instituted a suit for its release. In a landmark ruling, the high court Judge Masalu Musene ordered for its release, a judgement that has been widely contested by both the Uganda Wildlife Authority and URA.
URA has lodged an appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Uganda Radio Network
In a statement issued to the media, Dr. Maria Mutagamba, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities says the decision by the High Court judge is against the laws in a country that outlaws trade in ivory and other protected species.
Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority have lodged an appeal against the Nakawa High Court ruling ordering the tax body to release 2.9 tones of impounded ivory to Emile Kasumba Ogane. On October 17th, 2013, URA impounded a container with 832 pieces Ivory at Ken freight Inland Container Depot-ICD in Bweyogerere. The consignment was taken to URA customs stores for safe custody pending investigations of the matter and possible reprimand of the culprits.
Police was also notified for purposes of investigation to find the source of the ivory and have the people involved arrested and prosecuted. Preliminary investigations led by police Owino Odhiambo, Kenya national and a Congolese national Emille Kayumba Ogane. The Kampala Chief Magistrates court at Kampala issued arrest warrants for the said suspects and the police and other security agencies are still searching for the whereabouts of the suspects for purposes of effecting arrest.
UWA accused the suspects of acquiring or having possession of prohibited goods contrary to Section 200(d)(i) of the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004, and Being in illegal possession of wildlife protected species without permission contrary to the provisions of the Uganda wildlife Act. However, through Geoffrey Nagumya and Company Advocates, Ogane filed an application in court demanding the release of his ivory consignment arguing that he had a license to trade in the contraband goods from DR Congo government.
He also argued that the impounded Ivory was in transit to Mombasa and therefore could not be affected by the East African Customs Regulations and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In his ruling on Monday, Justice Wilson Masalu Musene concurred with the applicant and ordered for the unconditional release of the 832 pieces of ivory. However, the ruling didn’t go down well with Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority who said they could not allow the decision to go unchallenged.
In a statement issued to the media, Dr. Maria Mutagamba, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities says the decision by the High Court judge is against the laws in a country that outlaws trade in ivory and other protected species. She says the decision also goes against the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. She says a team of lawyers from both UWA and URA have already launched an appeal. Mutagamba says their lawyers have also applied for an injunction to stay the execution of the court order.
Below is the full statement;
MINISTRY OF TOURISM, WILDLIFE AND ANTIQUITIES
PRESS STATEMENT ON THE RULING OF JUSTICE WILSON MASALU MUSENE IN MISCELLANEOUS CAUSE NO.49 OF 2013 KAYUMBA EMILE OGANE VS UGANDA REVENUE AUTHORITY OVER IVORY TRAFFICKING
We have received with shock; the ruling of Justice Wilson Masalu Musene that Uganda Revenue Authority should hand over confiscated ivory to their owners (criminal suspects who are on the run and have arrest warrants issued against them). The sector is in great shock over the ruling.
This case was filed by one Kayumba Emile Ogane against URA seeking orders for release of 832 pieces of Ivory confiscated by URA, that the Uganda Police, Uganda wildlife Authority and all other authorities in Uganda give effect to the release order.
Background to this case
On 17th October 2013, we received information from URA that a container with 832 Ivory had been discovered at Ken freight Inland Container Deposit (ICD) Bweyogerere. We immediately sent a team of law enforcement officers and wildlife experts from Uganda Wildlife Authority in company of police, who confirmed that the items were indeed ivory. The consignment was then taken to URA customs stores for safe custody pending the investigations of the matter and possible reprimand of the culprits.
The matter was accordingly reported to police for purposes of investigation to find the source of the ivory and to have the people involved arrested and prosecuted. The suspects identified by the preliminary findings were Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) who are still at large. The Chief Magistrates court at Kampala issued arrest warrants for the said suspects and the police and other security agencies are still searching for the whereabouts of these suspects for purposes of effecting arrest.
Offences committed by the suspects
Acquiring or having possession of prohibited goods contrary to Section 200(d)(i) of the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004,
Being in illegal possession of wildlife protected species without permission contrary to the provisions of the Uganda wildlife Act.
Status of the Criminal case
The investigations were completed, the file was sanctioned for prosecution, an agent of Kayumba Ogane, one Ocaya David was arraigned before court for prosecution as an accomplice to the commission of these offences under this matter, but was released on bail.
The main suspects Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) are still at large and the police and other security agencies are looking for them including Interpol and LATF.
At national level, Uganda as sovereign State, prohibited any dealing in wildlife species and specimens without permission and specifically prohibits possession, trade, import, export, re-export and re-import of wildlife products and species including ivory.
Elephants are listed among the highly endangered wildlife species under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to which Uganda is party and bound by the resolutions. Any unauthorized trade in ivory and other related products is prohibited.
High Court Miscellaneous Cause No.49 of 2013 Kayumba Emile Ogane Vs Uganda Revenue Authority
As a ploy to defeat the efforts of the various agencies in investigating the illegal possession and purported transportation of illegal ivory, and to frustrate the prosecution of the offenders in the above case, the suspects through their lawyers decided to file the above suit seeking for unconditional release of the said ivory.
Hon. Justice Wilson Masalu Musene unfortunately agreed with the applicant that the ivory was unlawfully confiscated and ordered that the same be immediately released.
It is however very unfortunate and dismaying that such a ruling would be given with total disregard to the requirements of the law before such consignments can be allowed to transit which were never complied with.
It is also important to note that any import, export or re-export of wildlife species require clearance by the relevant countries Management and Scientific authority CITES which is the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities and Uganda Wildlife Authority respectively but which was never complied with. It is a legal requirement that any import, export or re-export of any wildlife species and or specimens through Uganda requires clearance by both Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities which I represent.
The suspect concealed the said goods and never declared to URA at customs points and only disguised the same as coffee meant for export. If the ruling of the honorable Justice is implemented, it will contravene the law and will cause absurdity to conservation as it will be setting terrible precedent by giving poachers and illegal wildlife traders a blanket protection.
We are very dismayed by the said Judgment and the likely implications it has for Uganda as a contracting Party to CITES Convention. But most importantly, the damage this has on tourism development and wildlife conservation in Uganda.
A team of lawyers of Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority have already filed a notice of Appeal to challenge the Judgment
Application for an interim order to stay execution of the judgment and filing of the appeal will also be immediately done.
We shall decisively pursue the criminal prosecution of suspects (Owners of the confiscated ivory) until they are brought to book. Security Agencies continue to pursue these suspects who are at large.
I want to call upon all the organs of the State to proactively support Government effort to stamp out illegal wildlife trade and trade and trafficking in order to conserve our heritage and its associated tourism development which is a vehicle for social transformation of our economy.
For God and My Country
Hon. Dr. Maria Mutagamba