Tag Archives: UWA

Entebbe police delays ivory, pangolin case (Uganda)

New Vision
January 31, 2015
A week after wildlife officials impounded 791kg of ivory and 2,029kg of pangolin scales, details have emerged that the cargo was escorted by armed personnel to Entebbe International Airport.
Sources say attempts were made to bribe Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials at Entebbe to turn a blind eye to the cargo, which was destined for the Netherlands. Two of the officials refused to take the bribe and turned the tables against their colleagues, who had connived with the traffickers.
The cargo was cleared as “telecommunication equipment” from MTN that was being shipped to the Netherlands for repair, according to documents obtained by Saturday Vision.
When contacted about the matter, MTN officials in Kampala distanced themselves from the deal.
“I do not know anything about this case and we have not been approached by the Police or UWA,” said Anthony Katamba, MTN’s corporate affairs manager.
“MTN is a busy telephone company. We have no time for exporting ivory. We do not even know how much it costs. It should be obvious to you that somebody is using our name to deal in ivory.”
Asked why the suspects are delaying to appear in court, the commandant of Aviation Police, Lodovick Awita, said he was in Moroto and referred Saturday Vision to the officers investigating the case for a comment.
The officer in charge of criminal investigations at Entebbe, Makaris Erico, noted that he needed time to consult his colleagues, saying he would get back to the writer in 10 minutes.
However, he did not call back or pick repeated phone calls on his known cellphone.
According to Aviation Police at Entebbe, a cargo handler and clearing agent were arrested immediately after the deal was uncovered.
The driver of the truck that delivered the cargo, according to sources, took the team of wildlife officials and the Police to the house in Bunamwaya, Wakiso district, where the ivory and pangolin scales were loaded.
A weighing scale, ivory moulding machine and pangolin scales were recovered.
 “The suspect in whose house evidence was recovered would be a prime suspect,” a source said, adding: “I do not see why they do not charge the suspects. This is a case where somebody was caught red-handed.”
According to sources, this could end up like many high-profile cases of wildlife crimes that have been reported to Police, but charges have never been brought against the suspects.

 

Home-grown corruption is killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants

Andreas Wilson-Spath, Daily Maverick
November 28, 2014
While the crisis is complex, with root causes in chronic poverty, the absence of sustainable economic alternatives and a burgeoning demand for wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn, the wheels of this multi-billion dollar industry are liberally greased by bribery and corruption at all levels of government in several African countries.
Even a cursory summary of the epidemic’s lowlights, makes for depressing reading:
Tanzania
Fast becoming Africa’s chief source of illicit ivory, Tanzania has lost two-thirds of its elephants to poaching since 2006. Collusion between corrupt government officials and criminal syndicates has been identified as the root cause. Game rangers provide critical information to poachers, police officers supply guns, Tanzanian Revenue Authority officers release containers of ivory for export, and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party functionaries offer high-level protection for trafficking operations.
In 2012 a list of individuals involved in elephant poaching, including prominent politicians, was handed to President Jakaya Kikwete. The following year, four CCM members of parliament, among them the party’s Secretary-General, Abdulrahman Kinana, were named for their involvement. None of the individuals implicated have been investigated further or arrested.
In 2013, Tanzania’s Auditor General criticised the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism’s Wildlife Division for the significant quantities of stockpiled elephant tusks that have gone missing while in its care and for under-reporting official poaching figures.
Earlier this year, police officers supplied poachers with weapons and access to the famed Selous Reserve, taking delivery of the ivory once five elephants had been killed.
A recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report notes that “the highest levels of the Tanzanian government” are ultimately responsible for the decimation of the country’s elephant population by failing to ensure that wildlife laws are enforced and by not achieving higher conviction rates when cases are brought to court.
Zambia
In 2013, Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, dismissed Edwin Matokwani, the Director-General of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) along with a number of his colleagues on the basis of malpractice and corruption involving commercial hunting companies.
In the same year, Defence Minister, Geoffrey Mwamba, was caught at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport with three large bags of elephant tusks. He was released without charge after claiming diplomatic immunity. The tusks were confiscated by ZAWA, but reappeared in the luggage of a Chinese diplomat at the same airport two days later. No further action was taken.
Mozambique
Poaching incidents reported to the Mozambican police and border guard are rarely followed up, cases are known to be squashed pending the payment of bribes, and offenders are released uncharged after a “deposit” of cash has been made.
A “web of official complicity” involving administrative, judicial and tax authorities in the northern provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado, including the Criminal Investigation Police, prosecuting attorneys and the courts, facilitates the industrial-scale elephant slaughter in the region. Government officials are known to have supplied poachers with high-calibre weapons, provided access to protected areas and smoothed the transportation of ivory and rhino horn out of the country.
In 2010, twelve elephants were killed in Mecula District using weapons supplied by police. The following year, eight Frontier Guard members were caught selling 350 kilograms of seized ivory. Instead of facing punishment, they were transferred to a different area.
Since 2012, several tonnes of ivory have disappeared from Mozambique’s official stockpile. High-level collusion by government officials is suspected.
The ruling Frelimo party stands accused of using the proceeds of ivory sales from more than 50 elephants poached in Niassa National Reserve with military equipment to fund its 2012 congress in Pemba.
In return for a bribe, airport customs officers in Maputo are known not to search luggage leaving the country, while customs and police officers provide similar services for containers shipped out of Pemba by Chinese timber companies. Cabo Delgado police commander Dora Manuel Majante has been accused of facilitating the passage of ivory and other contraband through Pemba’s airport and harbour.
A considerable proportion of the hundreds of poachers arrested or killed in the Kruger National Park have been members of the Mozambican army, police and border guard.
Uganda
Earlier this year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was asked to assist in the apprehension of high-ranking government officials involved in illegal wildlife trafficking. No action was taken.
This month, more than a tonne of stockpiled ivory went missing from a Ugandan government vault. A local newspaper claims that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials in cahoots with traffickers are responsible for widespread ivory theft. Since then, six top UWA employees, including executive director Andrew Seguya, have been suspended pending the outcome of a police investigation.
Sudan
Militias allied to the Sudanese government are alleged to engage in elephant poaching operations as far afield as Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), trafficking ivory via the government in Khartoum and its military.
South Sudan
Ending in 2005, the two-decade-long war between south and north Sudan reduced the local elephant population from more than 80 000 to less than 5000. Since then, ongoing internal military conflict between the official government army and rebel forces threatens to eradicate it altogether as soldiers butcher elephants and other wildlife for meat and ivory.
DRC
The DRC’s army is believed by many observers to be the leading poacher in the vast eastern regions of the country. Until leaving in 2011, Uganda’s occupying People’s Defence Force was also linked to poaching.
South Africa
A number of key officials canvassed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 2012 consider corruption connected to wildlife crime to be rife in South Africa, particularly with regards to issuing of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) permits. Formal action against corrupt officials remains the exception.
Zimbabwe
Elite members of Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF are controlling increasingly large tracts of wildlife areas in the country and some are believed to be supplementing their foreign currency income through elephant and rhino poaching there.
In 2013, poachers allegedly linked to well-know senior ZANU-PF members, police officers and Zimbabwe Wildlife Management officials used cyanide to kill more than 100 elephants in Hwange National Park (HNP).
This year, the country’s last free-roaming elephant herd, which is supposedly protected from hunting and culling by a Presidential decree, has come under threat. Defying a government directive, a woman named Elisabeth Pasalk, whose brother is a hunting safari operator, has illegally claimed part of the herd’s home range, established a safari lodge and declared the area a ‘conservancy’ – a common euphemism for ‘hunting concession’. Conservationists believe that the takeover was supported by “political influence from high places”, that illicit hunting is part of Pasalk’s plans and that the Presidential Elephants are the intended target. The Zimbabwean government has done nothing about the situation.
Time to act
The evidence is overwhelming: African governments are complicit in the wholesale slaughter of the continent’s wildlife heritage.
A number of them have made public commitments to stem the poaching tide. Tanzania, for instance, is a signatory of the 2014 London Conference Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade which calls for zero tolerance on corruption and President Kikwete has recently spoken in favour of a moratorium on all ivory sales. Yet Kikwete’s government has shown little intention of turning these promises into reality and remains deeply implicated in the disaster.
What’s needed is the political will to take drastic action – to identify and investigate corrupt activities related to wildlife crime at every level of government, to remove corrupt individuals – many of them well known – from office and to prosecute them under the provisions of the criminal justice system.
The international community, including CITES, bears part of the responsibility. By not fighting corruption vigorously enough, not sanctioning governments known to be corrupt, not enforcing international law, not establishing a total ban on international and domestic trading in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife commodities, and not calling for the destruction of all government stockpiles of such goods, they too are complicit in the unfolding catastrophe.
In July, the EIA and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) called on the US government to implement trade sanctions against Mozambique for its complicity in the slaughter of elephants and rhinos in Southern Africa. President Obama’s government is yet to heed this urgent call.
Eradicating corruption will not end the disaster. But if we don’t stop the systemic corruption which is facilitating it, Africa’s poaching crisis will be terminal – an extermination order for rhinos, elephants, lions, pangolins and countless other irreplaceable species that will not survive the century in the face of unbridled human greed.

Uganda suspends officials after ton of ivory stolen from vault

Agence France Presse
November 18, 2014
Kampala (AFP) – Uganda’s wildlife authority has suspended five top officials after a ton of seized ivory worth over a million dollars vanished from government strongrooms, its chief said Tuesday.
Interpol has been called in to aid in investigating the incident, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) chief Raymond Engena told AFP, following calls from the president to catch the culprits.
“We have suspended five officials to allow investigations into how the ivory went missing,” Engena said.
They include the government-run UWA’s chief ranger, those who had access to the strong room, as well as intelligence officers in the agency.
“We are cooperating with the police to establish the people behind this crime, and we have also involved Interpol in the investigations,” Engena said. “The people behind this will be found and dealt with decisively.”
The UWA said a routine check had found that 1,335 kilogrammes (2,943 pounds) of ivory had vanished from supposedly secure stockpiles, which officials estimated to be valued at some 1.1 million dollars (880,000 euros).
Staff are feared to have been working with the very traffickers they are meant to stop to steal and sell on the confiscated tusks.
Some corrupt officials are believed to have taken the ivory claiming to use it to ensnare potential traffickers, but then later selling it themselves.
Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years fuelled by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn, coveted as a traditional medicine and a status symbol.
Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade.
More than 35,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year for their tusks.

UWA And URA Appeal Court Ruling On Impounded Ivory

Uganda Radio Network

March 1, 2014

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.
Conclusion
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
Minister