The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 (as amended) under National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy XIII, obligates the State to protect important natural resources, including land, water, wetlands, minerals, oil, fauna and flora on behalf of the people of Uganda.
Article 237(2) of the same Constitution provided that Government as determined by Parliament by law, shall hold in trust for the people and protect natural lakes, rivers, wetlands, forest reserves, game reserves, national parks and any land to be reserved for ecological and touristic purposes for the common good of citizens.
Parliament enacted Uganda Wildlife Statute (Now codified as Cap 200 under laws of Uganda) in 1996. Since that time, several legislations and policies that relate to wildlife conservation have come into being including the Oil and Gas Policy and laws, the Land Use Policy and Laws, the National Vision 2040, the National Development Plan among others.
The National Development Plan under section 5.3.3 (279) strategy 2, Intervention provides for revision of the Uganda Wildlife Act to refocus wildlife conservation to respond to current realities in the sector.
The Oil and Gas Policy, 2008 under section 22.214.171.124 (g) requires the Ministry responsible for tourism and wildlife to harmonize tourism and wildlife Policies with Oil and Gas Policy. Section 186 of the Petroleum (exploration, Development and Production) Act of 2013 provides for supremacy of that Act over other relevant laws. This calls for harmonization of that Act with Uganda Wildlife Act as indeed oil and gas activities are not envisioned as permissible in Protected Areas under the Wildlife Act.
The Land Use Policy of 2007 under section 3(15) (a) calls for review and updating of wildlife conservation policies and laws to ensure guided land utilization especially of Protected Areas. Section 3(17) (a) of the same land use policy calls for effective management of wildlife outside Protected Areas. The principles proposed for amendment of Uganda Wildlife Act Addresses all these concerns.
In addition, since the enactment of the Act, several emerging issues that affect wildlife conservation have come up including the exploration and yet to start production activities, escalating human wildlife conflicts, escalating levels of illicit wildlife trade and trafficking, institutional changes among other. This necessitates review of Uganda Wildlife Act not only to align it other National Laws and Policies but also addressing critical emerging issues.
The lapse of time has rendered the offences and penalties under the Wildlife Act ineffective; especially in dealing with illicit wildlife trade, trafficking and poaching among other wildlife related crimes. This necessitates a review to update the offences and penalties to deal with the globally re-merging illicit wildlife trafficking.
Lessons learnt from 17 years of implementation of the Act point to the need for a new approach to conservation of wildlife through effectively mitigating human wildlife conflicts, promoting sustainable utilization of wildlife for National Economic Development, increasing wildlife management efficiency and effectiveness, securing the wildlife conservation in Uganda. Review of the Wildlife Act to clearly redirect the sector in that direction will result enhanced conservation of Uganda’s wildlife heritage ad associated tourism development in Uganda.
CABINET APPROVES RATIFICATION OF THE UNEP/CMS AGREEMENT ON THE CONSERVATION OF GORRILAS AND THEIR HABITATS
The Gorilla Agreement is a legally binding instruments developed under the United Nations Environment programmes (UNEP) based convention on Conservation of migratory species of Wild Animals (CMS)
Uganda ratified CMS convention on 1st August 2000 and currently represents Eastern and southern Africa on the standing committee of the convention. Uganda is also Vice Chair of the Standing Committee of African Eurasian water bird Agreement which is just like Gorilla Agreement, an agreement signed under the convention on migratory species.
The gorilla agreement aims to conserve and restore the highly endangered primates’ species in East, Central and West Africa through formulation of action plans by parties for each of the 4 sub species covering education, research, forest protection, management, tourism and capacity building.
Cabinet therefore approved the signing of the gorilla agreement because Uganda is a contracting party and an active member and leader to the United Nations Convention on migratory species. It’s an obligation under this convention that range states conclude species specific Agreements to conserve migratory species in their respective territories. Ratifying this agreement is therefore Uganda’s fulfillment of her obligations under convention on migratory species.
Uganda is home to more than half of the remaining population of mountain gorillas and some of these migrate to Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and back to Uganda. This agreement provides a much needed framework for resolving disputes that may arise out of the migration of gorillas particularly safety of gorillas, revenue sharing, trans boundary conservation cooperation among others.
Signing this agreement will further demonstrate Uganda’s commitment to the conservation of mountain gorillas which is a flagship species for Uganda’s tourism. This will raise the country’s profile to the United Nations Community and this will promote tourism and conservation efforts in Uganda.
As a party to the gorilla agreement, Uganda will be eligible to access a strong international partnership of experts, government and non-government conservation organizations, range states, donor agencies, global law enforcement agencies, united nations and its affiliated initiatives, assuring the best available knowledge and support of multiple conservation actions and efforts in conserving the mount gorillas.
Uganda would be eligible to make official interventions at UNEP gorilla agreement meetings, determine the budget and work plans as well as the revision of action plans and cooperation with partner organizations and other treaties.
Currently Uganda remains an observer in these meetings yet Uganda’s neighbors who have less gorilla numbers have always used these meetings to project themselves as the home of gorillas. This has had implications for marketing Uganda as a mountain Gorilla destination. Ratification of the new agreement now puts us as a country at a vantage point.
REVISION OF UGANDA’S WILDLIFE POLICY.
Cabinet has resolved to review Uganda’s Wildlife Policy (WP) which was first formulated in 1994. The objective was to harmonize WP with related instruments like the National Environment Policy and the Wetland Policy and the Constitution, to enhance synergies.
Following consultations with key stakeholders like the academia, tour operators, civil society, communities in conservation areas and local leaders, Government has now adopted adjustments to the WP, to incorporate new aspects including;
(a) To provide for incentives that support private sector to invest more in wildlife development in Uganda.
(b) To guarantee safety for tourists by enhancing security in in national parks and game reserves, under the expanded anti-terror surveillance in Uganda.
(c) To increase resource allocation to the tourism sector, specifically for extending and improving infrastructure to, within and around tourism sites. This, it is envisaged will enhance competitiveness of Uganda’s tourism industry within and beyond the region.
(d) To reconcile the needs for wildlife conservation and human beings, particularly in areas that have been affected by insurgency and civil strife.
(e) To ensure that any infrastructural development within and around wildlife conservation areas does not compromise the support eco-systems for flora and fauna in the respective areas. For instance, any road passing through a
game park would only be built after a scientific study has cleared its viability and impact on the park.
(f) Any demands for land in national parks will not be entertained, except in very exceptional circumstances where survival of communities is involved as is the case with the Basongora and Batwa.
Namayanja Nsereko (MP)
MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND NATIONAL GUIDANCE
Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda Joint Visa Launching at ITB
6th March, 2014 Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda made an announcement on the introduction of the East African single joint visa, which took effect on 1st January 2014. The Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda Ministers and High Commissioners and Tourism Board Heads officially graced the launch of the new cross-border visa today at Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda common pavilion at this year’s Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) held annually in Berlin.
The tourist cross-border visa between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda costs USD $100. The single tourist visa resulted from a joint initiative and decision made by the Heads of State of the respective countries. Before the establishment of the single entry visa for Kenya was USD $50 (approximately £30), for Uganda was USD $50 (approximately £30) and Rwanda was USD $30 (approximately £18).
Kenya’s Minister for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Mrs Phyllis Kandie applauded the joint tourist move, ‘This will enrich the tourist product offering in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The region will benefit from an increase of tourists and numbers of days spend in these countries that have a wide range of products. The region is bound to harvest a much larger share of the over 50 million tourists visiting Africa each year’.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza said: “The launch of the cross- border visa is a huge milestone in our regional integration efforts that will continue to largely benefit tourists. We have already felt its positive impact, since January 1st, 2014, as we are noticing an increasing number of travellers to the East African region. With this partnership, our unique selling point as a region is highlighted as we have a wide range of experiences to offer.”
“The launch of the East Africa single tourism visa at the Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya tripartite meeting is a strong signal of the East African commitment to the integration process and marketing East Africa as a single destination. The visitors from our source markets will be able to benefit from the Multiple Entry Visa provision to tour the sister countries.” Hon. Dr. Maria Mutagamba, the Uganda Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiques confirmed.
Uganda is delighted to join her neighbours in providing greater value for the tourists and facilitating the movement of people through the Great Rift Valley states that share much commonality but provide a diverse range of natural and cultural attractions. The minister further notes that this initiative will make the region more competitive and is bound to reduce the cost of doing business in the region.
The introduction of the Joint tourist visa has so far boosted regional travel, adding value to the tourism product offerings of these countries and highlighted the diversity of East Africa.
The glamour and valour at the long awaited Kidepo day celebrations on February 28th,2014 were unprecedented.
The presence of the President and Fountain of Honour, a couple of cabinet ministers and dozens of Legislators including the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry, over 15 cultural groups in unique costumes and the disbursement of over 287 million shillings to the communities, all combined to make the day one of the most unforgettable events in Karamoja region.
The first version of the Kidepo day was marked on August 22nd, 2013 in Kampala during which the new cashless system of payment to enter the national parks using a wildlife card was launched, women who have excelled in conservation recognized and fallen heroes who had lost their lives in the line of duty remembered.
UWA management then committed itself to find time for the real celebrations with the communities neighbouring the Kidepo Valley Conservation Area particularly the Napore community who offered their former hunting grounds for the protected area that would later turn into one of the best national parks in Africa owing to its spectacular landscapes and amazing wildlife herds.
As fate would have it, thousands of buffalos made sure they grazed around the Narus valley for every visitor to witness how protected and health they are, while the elephants majestically walked around the expansive valley punctuated by rocky outcrops.
The celebrations in Apoka saw the launching of the Kidepo brand as the True African Wilderness and unique destination .There was no better way of doing this than the President unveiling the new brand amidst a guard of honour. The President also inspected a former armoury used by the warriors back in the days .Other guests had memorable game drives, visited the cemetery to pay respect to the fallen heroes while few visited the hot springs at Kanagarok.
Speaker after speaker emphasized the unique biodiversity in Kidepo Valley National Park, the return of peace after disarmament that had led to regeneration of tourism; need to invest in tourism infrastructure and other projects which will empower the neighbouring communities to reap from the flourishing tourism.
The President excited the tourism fraternity when he announced that the roads in the area were due for tarmacking while plans were underway to connect the region to the national hydro electric power grid.
Individuals and organizations who have given their all to the successful growth of Kidepo received medals while a cheque of 128,935,000 shillings was delivered to the Kaabong district leaders under the revenue sharing arrangement .Yet another cheque of 158,323,200 shillings was issued to the communities being revenue from the sport hunting activity from the Karenga-Bokora-Matheniko Community Wildlife Association.
It was bee-hive activity in all the campsites, Apoka Safari Lodge, Apoka bandas as the excited folks dined and wined through the night dancing their way to a new eventful month of March 2014.
UWA is grateful for all the visitors, partners, staff and neighbouring communities who ensured the success of this memorable day.
MINISTRY OF TOURISM, WILDLIFE AND ANTIQUITIES
PRESS STATEMENT ON THE RULING OF JUSTICE WILSON MASALU MUSENE IN MISCELLANEOUS CAUSE NO.49 OF 2013 KAYUMBA EMILE OGANE VS UGANDA REVENUE AUTHORITY OVER IVORY TRAFFICKING
We have received with shock; the ruling of Justice Wilson Masalu Musene that Uganda Revenue Authority should hand over confiscated ivory to their owners (criminal suspects who are on the run and have arrest warrants issued against them). The sector is in great shock over the ruling.
This case was filed by one Kayumba Emile Ogane against URA seeking orders for release of 832 pieces of Ivory confiscated by URA, that the Uganda Police, Uganda wildlife Authority and all other authorities in Uganda give effect to the release order.
Background to this case
On 17th October 2013, we received information from URA that a container with 832 Ivory had been discovered at Ken freight Inland Container Deposit (ICD) Bweyogerere. We immediately sent a team of law enforcement officers and wildlife experts from Uganda Wildlife Authority in company of police, who confirmed that the items were indeed ivory. The consignment was then taken to URA customs stores for safe custody pending the investigations of the matter and possible reprimand of the culprits.
The matter was accordingly reported to police for purposes of investigation to find the source of the ivory and to have the people involved arrested and prosecuted. The suspects identified by the preliminary findings were Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) who are still at large. The Chief Magistrates court at Kampala issued arrest warrants for the said suspects and the police and other security agencies are still searching for the whereabouts of these suspects for purposes of effecting arrest.
Offences committed by the suspects
Acquiring or having possession of prohibited goods contrary to Section 200(d)(i) of the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004,
Being in illegal possession of wildlife protected species without permission contrary to the provisions of the Uganda wildlife Act.
Status of the Criminal case
The investigations were completed, the file was sanctioned for prosecution, an agent of Kayumba Ogane, one Ocaya David was arraigned before court for prosecution as an accomplice to the commission of these offences under this matter, but was released on bail.
The main suspects Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) are still at large and the police and other security agencies are looking for them including Interpol and LATF.
At national level, Uganda as sovereign State, prohibited any dealing in wildlife species and specimens without permission and specifically prohibits possession, trade, import, export, re-export and re-import of wildlife products and species including ivory.
Elephants are listed among the highly endangered wildlife species under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to which Uganda is party and bound by the resolutions. Any unauthorized trade in ivory and other related products is prohibited.
High Court Miscellaneous Cause No.49 of 2013 Kayumba Emile Ogane Vs Uganda Revenue Authority
As a ploy to defeat the efforts of the various agencies in investigating the illegal possession and purported transportation of illegal ivory, and to frustrate the prosecution of the offenders in the above case, the suspects through their lawyers decided to file the above suit seeking for unconditional release of the said ivory.
Hon. Justice Wilson Masalu Musene unfortunately agreed with the applicant that the ivory was unlawfully confiscated and ordered that the same be immediately released.
It is however very unfortunate and dismaying that such a ruling would be given with total disregard to the requirements of the law before such consignments can be allowed to transit which were never complied with.
It is also important to note that any import, export or re-export of wildlife species require clearance by the relevant countries Management and Scientific authority CITES which is the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities and Uganda Wildlife Authority respectively but which was never complied with. It is a legal requirement that any import, export or re-export of any wildlife species and or specimens through Uganda requires clearance by both Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities which I represent.
The suspect concealed the said goods and never declared to URA at customs points and only disguised the same as coffee meant for export. If the ruling of the honorable Justice is implemented, it will contravene the law and will cause absurdity to conservation as it will be setting terrible precedent by giving poachers and illegal wildlife traders a blanket protection.
We are very dismayed by the said Judgment and the likely implications it has for Uganda as a contracting Party to CITES Convention. But most importantly, the damage this has on tourism development and wildlife conservation in Uganda.
A team of lawyers of Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority have already filed a notice of Appeal to challenge the Judgment
Application for an interim order to stay execution of the judgment and filing of the appeal will also be immediately done.
We shall decisively pursue the criminal prosecution of suspects (Owners of the confiscated ivory) until they are brought to book. Security Agencies continue to pursue these suspects who are at large.
I want to call upon all the organs of the State to proactively support Government effort to stamp out illegal wildlife trade and trade and trafficking in order to conserve our heritage and its associated tourism development which is a vehicle for social transformation of our economy.
For God and My Country
Hon. Dr. Maria Mutagamba