A Chief Magistrate’s court in Fort Portal, Kabarole District has sentenced an Anglican priest Rev. Misaki Maitene and an ex-soldier Retired Captain Benon Twinomujuni to 12 months in prison after they were convicted of illegal possession of ivory and trading in protected species.
Also sentenced with the duo is one Monday Benedicto while their accomplice identified as Robert Atwijukye from Biharwe, Mbarara district jumped police bond and is on the run. Mr. Otto M. Gulamoi the Chief Magistrate Fort Portal (recently promoted to deputy registrar) last Thursday,23rd January, 2014,sentenced the three accused persons to serve 12 months in prison or pay a fine of 8 million shillings each.
The trio could not instantly produce the money and currently serving the sentence in Katojo prison, Kabarole district. The Bundibugyo based priest and his accomplices were first arrested on July 11th,2013 in Kabarole with elephant tusks(ivory)weighing 8 kgs, by officers from the Joint Anti Terrorism Unit(JATT).
On interrogation, the suspects stated that Rev. Maitene had travelled to DRC for burial of a relative when he met local people who requested him to get for them a market for ivory in Uganda. On return, the Reverend priest linked up with one Robert Atwijukye of Biharwe Mbarara who identified a buyer.
The priest and his two colleagues reportedly mobilized 7 million shillings from a local Sacco to send to the Congolese sellers who in turn delivered the 8 kgs of ivory promising to deliver the rest later. When the buyers who happened to be from security circles arrived in July, they learnt through interaction with the sellers(suspects)that another 30 kg piece of ivory had arrived at Busunga border post, Bundibugyo which attracted the buyers and drove along with the priest to pick it.
The suspects were tricked to go to Bundibugyo bank for payment but were hesitant to release the 30kg piece of ivory, only to drive with two of the sellers to pick the money during which they were arrested. The two were made to persuade their colleagues left behind at the border post that the sellers were on their way back with the money in the process and more got arrested and were transferred to Kampala for interrogation while the ivory recovered from them were left at Fort Portal regional police.
After interrogation by anti terrorism, the suspects were transferred back to Fort Portal for prosecution and had been on remand in Katojo prison until last Thursday when they were sentenced. Detectives from Fort Portal are continuing with investigations and efforts to arrest another key suspect working with an immigration staff at Busunga who is thought to be the key person in the ivory trade. In a related development, the UWA law enforcement and the legal units are following up the case of another Rev.Baguma from Kabarole and his co-accused in the case of illegal possession of ivory. The case is due for further hearing in Fort Portal court.