During the recent public function to mark the UN Wildlife Day in Kampala, the EU Ambassador urged government to destroy 15 tonnes of impounded ivory worth 81 trillion Ug shillings in its custody. Five tonnes are in the custody of UWA, six tonnes are in the custody of Aviation Police and three tonnes are in the custody of the Custom authorities.
Another 1.3 tonnes were recently impounded in Kampala destined for Europe. The three West African nationals behind the contraband are being held by the Police. They claim that they are mere workers of big shots in government and security agencies. The consignment was seized from a residential hideout in a Kampala suburb when its containers had already been marked with ENHAS stickers as 'CLEARED'. Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS) is owned by the very powerful Museveni in-law, Sam Kutesa.
In February 2013, six workers of ENHAS were simply questioned over aiding the smuggling of 422kgs of ivory worth 3.1b shillings to Malaysia. The matter was swept under the carpet.
In May 2014 Customs at Entebbe Airport impounded 35 Rhino horns and 22 pieces of ivory. UWA law enforcement agents comprised of Rangers and military personnel connived with airport police and stole two Rhino horns after crafting fake ones to replace the two real ones. After failing to equitably share the proceeds of their loot, a whistle blower revealed the entire racket. He went ahead to reveal that a senior Army Officer attached to UWA had masterminded the breaking into and theft of over one tonne of ivory from the UWA strong room.
In Nov 2014, the Ministry of Tourism sent on leave UWA Executive Director to pave way for an investigation into the theft of over one a tonne of ivory from the UWA strong room. The same Minister
tasked the army to recall the top army officers who had been in charge of security in UWA and suspected to have stolen the said ivory. Museveni moved very fast to provide his usual cover-up by tasking the IGG to investigate the matter. The UWA Ranger who had been guarding the strong room at the time of the theft was mysteriously shot dead at his residence in Kampala. In January 2015, the IGG reinstated Dr. Seguya as Executive Director (ED) and that was the end of the story.
In January 2015 715kgs of ivory and 2029 kgs of Pangolin skin was intercepted at Entebbe. Some of the ivory pieces had UWA markings indicating that it was part of the ivory earlier stolen from the UWA strong room. Disguised as MTN communication equipment destined for Amsterdam, the consignment had already been cleared by ENHAS. This prompted the arrest of the ENHAS Cargo Handler and the Clearing Agent. The driver of the truck that ferried the contraband led the police to the warehouse where the packaging had been done. The matter was swept under the packet.
In March 2016, Major Allan Rutagira of CMI and Cpl Collins Kamugisha of SFC attached to Entebbe Airport were arrested as they intended to sell 19 pieces of ivory. Cpl Kamugisha's confession led to the arrest of the ENHAS Accountant, George Otika, a State House driver, Abel Bamujobora, Mbonye Simon a businessman who revealed that the contraband belonged to a one Sunday Alex.
Recently it was only Maj. Rutagira and Cpl. Kamugisha who were convicted for illegal possession of ivory and were each sentenced to a fine of four million shillings or two years’ imprisonment. Yet, in January 2017 a 35 years old man in Kiryandongo was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment without the option of a fine for illegal possession of two pieces of ivory.
The above sampling is just a tip of the iceberg. We have previously given highlights into the illegal ivory dealings:
1. AFTER IVORY NEXT IS GOLD RESERVES IN BANK OF UGANDA
2. TON OF IVORY STOLLEN - FRUITS OF MILITARISATION
The illegal wildlife trade is a lucrative business that the thieving Museveni regime can not afford to lose. Uganda is mainly used as a conduit route for such contraband from the rest of the region. The
corrupt security officers manning exit points and the powerful regime functionaries facilitate this syndicate. The powerful have not only been stealing impounded ivory but even impounded illegal drugs.
Therefore, the regime can’t afford to destroy the 81 trillion shillings’ worth of impounded ivory in its custody. They will steal it in bits and if pressed hard by conservationists, the best they will do is to pile logs of wood covered by a few pieces of ivory and invite the public to witness the destruction by fire. With increased militarisation of the natural resources sector, the situation is expected to worsen.
INFORMATION IS POWER AND DEFIANCE IS THE WAY TO GO.