Application of Wildlife Law in Gabon: Lowering the Level of Penalties



Date Published
Law No. 016/01 of 31 December 2001 on the Forest Code in the Gabonese Republic prohibits the hunting, possession, transportation, and marketing of remains, trophies, or fully protected species of products, which includes the elephant and represses the offender to 3 to 6 months’ imprisonment and 10 million maximum fine of FCFA in Article 275. In recent times, there has been a reduction in the sentence level in wildlife matters. For example, March 19, 2015 in Libreville two ivory traffickers Ndzeng Boure Nang Mr. Yvon Thierry and Casimir ONUOHA were sentenced to only one month’s imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs each. Earlier, on 02 March, Messrs Yattassaye Ali and Alassane Koita were just sentenced to three months in prison while their fellow Ndong Chancel Cédricétait simply relaxed.
How to explain such low sentences in a context where the law is itself already considered weak and deterrent against the neighboring countries? For, despite the numerous arrests, repressive laws have not yet been tightened and the conviction level drops drastically. Then trials, marketing is usually not retained despite the sale of ivory is equally reprehensible and despite the confession of the accused. The floors usually require six months’ imprisonment but the judge decides on his personal conviction. One can only speculate on the reasons for such low sentences on the basis of legislation already considered low.
The online newspaper Le Monde, in an article entitled “The war against poaching in Gabon” published March 13, praised the actions on the ground in national parks against poachers and rightly so. But the war did not end there. One of the most effective ways to fight against these criminals would increase penalties on wildlife crimes following the example of our neighbors in the Congo (5 years in prison), Benin (10 years) and Kenya where a trafficker ivory faces life in prison! Something to think about before starting, or as in the case of Yvon, to re-offend in these illegal activities.
UNODC (United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime) already raised concerns when two months ago, the international body had given an alarming report on wildlife crime in Gabon, demonstrating “flaws at the national legislative corpus, which would not be suitable to international conventions designed to fight against wildlife and forest crime,” as reported in the newspaper L’Union.
One month in prison for the ivory trade. It is far from the willingness of the Head of State to fight against this phenomenon when he burned the national stock of ivory in 2011. An international conference on wildlife trafficking and multi Heads of State held on 25 March in Botswana and follows the London Conference where strong commitments had already been taken, including the Head of State. Hopefully they will materialize. 
The Ministry of Justice already shows a clear commitment to the fight against wildlife crime across the floors that require six months imprisonment as appropriate. This should be standard in all the floors of the Republic. 
To reinforce this commitment, the department could give as criminal policy measure to prosecutors systematically file an appeal in case of unfavorable decision, that is to say below six months imprisonment. The seat as judges them could better understand the wildlife criminal phenomenon that is accompanied by several corollaries of arms trafficking, money laundering, looting of resources, insecurity, attracting terrorist groups, etc.