Uganda has become a crime hub for trafficked wildlife products from neighbouring countries such as South Sudan, DR Congo, Tanzania and Kenya
PIC Nampindo speaking during the press briefing at Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Friday as the project co-ordinator Paul Mulondo looks on. Photo by Shamim Saad
By Gerald Tenywa and Lisa Nsaba
An inter-ministerial committee has been set up to co-ordinate anti-poaching activities and curb wildlife trafficking across the country, according to Simon Nampindo, the country director of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The institutions on the committee include Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Police Force, Interpol, UPDF (CMI), Immigrations and Customs, Civil Aviation Authority, Judiciary, Director of Public Prosecutions, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Works and Transport.
The committee led by UWA, will co-ordinate intelligence information concerning poachers and wildlife traffickers in Uganda.
“There was lack of co-ordination and sharing of information among government institutions,” Nampindo said, adding that co-ordination would improve curbing of wildlife crime.
He added: “The Government needs to handle wildlife crime the way they are fighting terrorism under the Anti-terrorism efforts.”
Nampindo was speaking on Friday at a press conference organised at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel to highlight the new strategies they are proposing together with their stakeholders to curb wildlife crime in Uganda.
Sam Mwandha, UWA’s executive director confirmed that they had formed the task force and that they were already co-ordinating with UPDF. He said the liaison officer has an office at UWA and the operation will expand to other institutions that conduct intelligence on wildlife.
Nampindo also pointed out that they would engage Chinese companies in Uganda to curtail trade in ivory, pangolin scales, game meat particularly pangolins in order to reduce the threat on wildlife.
Uganda has become a crime hub for trafficked wildlife products from neighbouring countries such as South Sudan, DR Congo, Tanzania and Kenya, according to a press statement from WCS.
The statement also stated that Uganda was named among the eight worst offending countries in ivory trade at the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna) in Bangkok. Uganda was also confirmed a transit route for wildlife products mainly illegally poached from Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, West Africa.
Nampindo blamed the growth of the vice on improvement in communication.
“Most of those involved may not be in Uganda, but they have middlemen ,” Nampindo said. He says Uganda is most used because of the lenient penalties given to culprits arrested with illegal wildlife products, unlike other countries that have strict laws and harsher penalties.
“They choose Uganda as a transit route because they know if they are caught they will serve a sentence as low as seven years or pay a penalty of sh20m,” he said, adding that this was a small fraction of the proceeds accrued from the illegal activities.
Uganda’s wildlife law is being revised and it is proposing stiffer punitive measures (penalties and prison sentences).