The Ugandan government has apologised to China after the latter rejected allegations that two of its diplomats working in Uganda were involved in the trafficking of ivory.
Early this month, President Yoweri Museveni was reported in the media to have ordered a probe into possible collusion between the country's wildlife agency and the Chinese diplomats after about 1,300 kilogrammes of ivory disappeared from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) stores.
But China dismissed reports of the allegations as "totally unfounded".
Subsequently, a statement issued by the foreign affairs ministry said the ministry regrets the negative impact this incident may have caused to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China after two of the suspects were named as Chinese diplomats.
“Reference is made to recent local and international media reports quoting a leaked letter from H.E the President asking the Inspector General of Government to investigate the alleged “collaboration by some Uganda Wildlife Authority officials with some Chinese by the names of Li Wejin and Yinzhi who are diplomats in the Embassy to export ivory”, among other issues,” read a statement issued by the ministry’s permanent secretary Patrick S. Mugoya.
Mr Mugoya further noted that following a thorough review of its records, the ministry has confirmed that both Mr Li Wejin and Yinzhi are not accredited diplomats with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Uganda.
“China and Uganda continue to enjoy very cordial relations. The Government of Uganda reiterates its commitment to strengthening further the relations and bonds of friendship that exist between our two countries,” he added.
China announced in December that it would ban all ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, a move hailed by conservationists as a "game changer" for African elephants.
More than 35,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year for their tusks.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the ivory trade in 1989.
But China permits the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban -- and also has a stockpile purchased with CITES approval in 2008, which it releases for sale with certification.