Uganda sentences ivory dealer to life imprisonment

A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), noted that poaching of rhinos and elephants was on the rise. The report detailed that crime gangs in East Africa fuelled by profits in the illicit trade threatened the existence of wildlife. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is the fourth-largest illicit activity worldwide, generating $7 (Shs23bn) per year.

The Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court in Kampala has sentenced a Ugandan ivory dealer to life imprisonment.

Kampala City resident Pascal Ochiba was sentenced on October 20, 2022 for unlawful possession of protected species.

Court documents indicate that Ochiba was arrested January 18, 2022 in Namuwongo zone, Kampala after being found in possession of two pieces of elephant ivory weighing 9.55 kilograms- without a wildlife use right.

Further scrutiny of court records indicates that Ochiba was first arrested on July 4, 2017, from the same area after being found with four pieces of ivory and a dry skin of an Okapi without a valid use right and was sentenced to eighteen months in jail for both counts which he served concurrently.

Gladys Kamasanyu, the Chief Magistrate of the Standards, Utilities and Wildlife Court while sentencing Ochiba, said “he is a habitual wildlife trafficker who does not deserve the leniency of the law and that he is a threat to wildlife conservation.”

“Offences of unlawful possession of protected species are rampant and there is need to curb them,” she emphasized.

Uganda is home to the world’s most known wildlife ranging from iconic mammals like elephants to small ones like pangolins that need to be protected.

Sam Mwandha, the Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority described the sentence as a landmark achievement in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.

“We are happy to see the maximum sentence being handed to a wildlife offender. We must do our best to protect our wildlife otherwise history will judge us harshly,” he told Monitor on October 20.

Wildlife trafficking in Uganda

Uganda is known to be a global hub for wildlife trafficking because of its porous borders. Entebbe International Airport has on various occasions been flagged as conduit for illegal wildlife trafficking to Asian countries, particularly to China and Hong Kong.

According to the Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, Uganda loses an average of $509m in illicit outflows per year, while Africa is estimated to lose more than $50bn a year in illicit financial flows.

Illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is the fourth-largest illicit activity worldwide, generating $7 (Shs23bn) per year.

“Little is known about these illicit money flows in source and transit areas like Uganda and a lot of factors come into play like lack of political will and transparency, the dependence of Africa on natural resource extraction, corruption, weak national and regional capacities,” says the Uganda Conservation Foundation.