Uganda Shouldn’t Be a Conduit for Illegal Trade


The Monitor (Editorial)

Date Published

The Aviation Police, in collaboration with Uganda Wildlife Authority investigative unit and the Customs Office at Entebbe airport, have over the last 12 months seized tonnes of ivory en route various destinations.
In January, over 700kg of ivory worth about $1.5 million, which had been due to be exported to Amsterdam, were discovered hidden in boxes at Entebbe airport.

Around the same time, another a consignment of ivory was seized before being loaded onto an aircraft enroute to Asia.

Early this week, 48 boxes, which had eluded airport security en route to Singapore were discovered. This is just the tip of the ice berg.

Last year, a store room was broken into and a tonne of seized ivory worth over $1 million was stolen. Luckily, the ivory was seized again before it could be shipped out.

The rise for demand for ivory in Asia has fuelled poaching, with an estimated 35,000 elephants killed across Africa every year. With a kilogramme of ivory now worth thousands of dollars, poachers are killing more elephants each year than are being born, reports say.

Uganda has now become a key transit country for illegal trade in ivory from the neighboring countries due to the porous boarders and the lack of technology to scan for ivory at border points.

According to the police, the markings on the elephant tusks recovered indicate that the loot was from outside Uganda with three consignments seized in the last 12 months believed to originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

The police and other security organs are doing a commendable job.

However, a lot more should be done.

For example, seized ivory should be destroyed as opposed to locking it away, like it is the case in France, Japan, United States and Kenya. These countries have for long been in support of destroying illegal ivory.

On top of deterring poachers from trying to use Uganda as a transit point for the illegal ivory, destroying of the seized items would also fight temptation to steal the seized consignment.

Parliament should pass the UWA Bill into law as a matter of urgency.

The law, according to UWA law enforcement coordinator, Ms Margaret Kasumba, will allow the wildlife body charge poachers hefty fines as one way of stopping them from engaging in illegal businesses.

Above all, the task to stop poaching and the use of the country’s exit and entry points should not be left to the security organs alone. Ugandans should be more vigilant if the vice is to be curbed.