Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA has said that the trial of wildlife crime-related cases across the country has been frustrated by a shortage of manpower in its wildlife prosecution unit.
UWA is a semi-autonomous government agency mandated to conserve, manage and regulate Uganda’s wildlife. It manages 10 National Parks; 12 Wildlife reserves; five community wildlife management areas; and 13 Wildlife Sanctuaries in the country. The authority is also mandated, under the Wildlife Act to prosecute cases such as poaching, and illegal wildlife trade particularly in ivory, pangolin scales and hippo teeth among others.
The illicit trade in wildlife has been fueled by the demand for wildlife products and specimen trophies, pets, and medicine in East Asia, and has expanded over the years to make wildlife crime the fourth most lucrative transnational crime after trafficking in people, arms and drugs.
But UWA Executive Director Samuel John Mwandha told URN that although they established a Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit with prosecutors deployed across the country to ensure that wildlife crimes are appropriately prosecuted, this mandate is being frustrated by a shortage of prosecutors to undertake the role.
Mwandha explains that only 14 out of the 33 prosecutors required in the organizational structure are deployed across the country. All the prosecutors of UWA are supervised and licensed by the Directorate of Public Prosecution – DPP.
The successful prosecution of those who are apprehended is vital to safeguarding that the criminal justice system within Uganda can act as a sufficiently strong enough deterrent to those contemplating commission of such a crime and boost the tourism industry in Uganda.
According to the Budget Framework Paper for the Financial Year 2019/20 Sector Performance, the tourism sector is well poised to be the leading growth and development sector in the country. This is in part due to the expansive array of tourist attractions the country is blessed with including ten national parks that boast a cocktail of fascinating wildlife species, various mountains, waterfalls and cultural sites.