Entering Ivories in Kinshasa: A Plea for Exemplary Punishment and Comply with the Law (DRC)


Agence d’Information d’Afrique Centrale/Brazzaville    

Date Published

This punishment, think USAID, WWF, and ICCN Traffic, will discourage the illegal trade in ivory. The press conference jointly held on February 23, in the premises of WWF by representatives of USAID, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), WWF, and Traffic, was a bell of alarm signaling the danger facing the elephant in the DRC in particular and the whole of Africa in general. 

“We are here today in this place to sound the alarm bell and say that the elephant in Africa is in danger of extinction because of the illegal ivory trade,” said the Director of USAID / DRC Diana Putman. During this activity, in fact, all these personalities, on behalf of their institutions, welcomed the crackdown carried out by the Congolese National Police, which resulted in the seizure of nearly thirty kilos of ivory and the workshops of equipment of ivory processing and dismantle a trafficking network. For these institutions, the crackdown is a strong signal launched by the DRC, which reflects its commitment to fight against trafficking and to end it. But they expect the implementation of exemplary sanctions and compliance with the law to discourage poaching and ivory trade. “This shows that when there is political will with the support of donors, there are convincing results in the fight against illegal trade in wildlife products,” said the Director of USAID/DRC, which also reaffirmed the commitment of the US government, through USAID, to accompany the DRC in protecting biodiversity. There’s success, she said, though we recognize that much remains to be done.

A Prohibited Activity

For the head of WWF Wildlife Program, Alfred Yoko, the wait is to see what packages of ivory are seized, (given that ivory trade is a prohibited activity) , because the DRC has ratified the Convention on international trade in wild fauna and flora threatened with extinction 

(CITES) and that there was in the country a moratorium that prohibits ivory trade. But he also regretted that the leaders of these activities have not yet been arrested. “This dragnet serves to deter traffickers, who must realize that they are no longer free to exercise,” noted the representative of Traffic, Cleo Mashini.

The representative of the Director General of ICCN, the director and head of DG Office, Augustin Ngumbi, recalled the efforts made by this state institution and its partners in the fight against the ivory trade. But he also deplored the collaboration of justice, which does not often accompany these efforts, especially when the trained magistrates are transferred or moved. “After sensitization, judges are often mutated, making it necessary to go further in awareness. It’s a very disappointing attitude of the judiciary in relation to the accompaniment . . .” he noted.

Encouragement for All Players

This seizure of nearly thirty kilos of ivory and all other leading forms, according to WWF, Traffic, ICCN, and USAID, their donor, are encouragement to move forward. To believe Diana Putman, USAID—through its Regional Environment Programme in Central Africa (Carp)—will allocate more funds for the monitoring of strategic enforcement and equipment eco-guards in protected areas in the Congo Basin, and support parks, prosecutors, and judges to arrest the criminals and ensure that they are punished.

WWF and its partners have thanked USAID. They also commended the DRC government for this action which led to the seizure of the package and a dismantling of the ivory smuggling network. “This action shows that ivory traffickers can no longer count on impunity for their crimes in the country and demonstrates that with determination, success in the fight against crime on wildlife in the DRC is possible,” said WWF.

It is noted that in accordance with Congolese law 2014 on wildlife, anyone convicted of having killed, wounded, captured, or is in possession of fully protected animals, including the elephant, be sentenced to prison one to ten years and/or a fine of 5 to 10 million Congolese francs (FC). International traffic involving fully protected species, such as illegal trafficking of ivory, is more severely punished by five to ten years in prison and/or 25 to 100 million FC.