The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) today began a three-day Wildlife Judicial and Prosecutorial Assistance Training in Kampala. Magistrates, prosecutors and members of Uganda’s police and customs authority are attending the training, the theme of which is “Strengthening Wildlife Law Enforcement through Judicial Interventions.”
“The conservation of wildlife and all other natural resources in Uganda requires concerted efforts from all relevant stakeholders. The prosecution of wildlife crime involves several stakeholders for success to be achieved and all the stakeholders play a fundamental role and without the cooperation of any of the stakeholders, a case cannot be successfully prosecuted. The police have to investigate a crime, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) sanctions and prosecutes, the judiciary determines the case and hands a verdict and passes appropriate sentence which is administered by the prisons. These are all independent institutions that must play a role for the successful prosecution of wildlife crime cases. UWA values the contribution of all these institutions among others and appeals to them to support the efforts of conservation for the benefit of the present and future generations of this country and the global community," said Chemonges M. Sabilla, Deputy Director, Legal and Corporate Affairs at Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Among other objectives of the training, attendees will gain a clearer perspective about wildlife crime in Uganda, and identify and overcome weaknesses in investigative and prosecutorial processes aimed at combating wildlife crime.
‘Wildlife law enforcement officers including the investigators, prosecutors and those in the judiciary are important actors in ensuring that Africa’s wildlife resource – species and habitats – is secured in the first place; then we can apply these resources to the sustainable development agenda of our countries,” said Dr. Philip Muruthi, Vice President of Species Conservation at African Wildlife Foundation
“To combat wildlife trafficking there is an urgent need for strengthening of collaborative agencies including law enforcement and judiciary not only in Uganda but regionally. There is also a need to enhance intelligence gathering and sharing of information amongst officers to enhance the chances of arrest of perpetrators of wildlife crime and guarantee their prosecution and appropriate punishment. This capacity building workshop is an integral step in forming linkages or networks that allow for structured and sustained coordination and collaboration,” said James Isiche, Regional Director IFAW East Africa.
Uganda and neighbours - Kenya and Tanzania–were named in 2013 along with five other countries by CITES as playing a primary role in the illegal wildlife trade, whether as source, transit or demand countries for illegal wildlife products. Uganda serves as a major transit hub in the wildlife supply chain, with ivory and other wildlife products seized by authorities moving toward ports in Kenya and Tanzania. The CITES Standing Committee insisted that Uganda and the other “gang of eight” countries must develop clear targets for reducing trade in ivory and other wildlife products or face trade sanctions. Since then, Uganda has started to take key steps in order to curb poaching and trafficking of wildlife.
The training is part of a larger program called the Horn of Africa Wildlife Crime Prevention Program, which is funded by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and implemented in partnership with the IUCN NL (National Committee of The Netherlands) and the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network. This two-year programme aims to prevent and combat wildlife crime in the Horn of Africa, which is emerging as a major region and hotspot for wildlife crime worldwide, both as a source and a transit route for illicit trafficking of wildlife products. Additional support was provided by AWF.