Uganda Cargo Forward Defies Trade Ban

In a blow to domestic and international efforts committed to obstructing illegal poaching, a Ugandan high court judge has ordered the return of 2.9 tons of ivory held in government custody since its confiscation in October 2013 to a Congolese national. It is believed the ivory is bound for export.

The cargo, representing 832 ivory pieces, had been declared as coffee at entry into the country and seized by the Ugandan Revenue Authority.

The primary suspect claimed the ivory, representing hundreds of elephants, was in legal transport from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Kenya via Uganda and sought a court order for its release. A Kenyan national and another Congolese national recognized as suspects in the case remain at large. The haul was ordered to be returned to the claimant by Justice Wilson Musalu Musene.

The ruling is an affront to the ban of the commercial international trade in ivory established in 1989 and the London Declaration from February 2014, which in addition to calling on countries to embolden laws and penalties against the illegal wildlife trade, urged those countries to also “strengthen the legal framework and facilitate law enforcement to combat the illegal wildlife trade and assist prosecution and the imposition of penalties that are an effective deterrent.”

In March 2013, CITES recognized Uganda as one of the eight most implicated agents in the illegal ivory trade.

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