Monday, March 6, 2017


It is reported that over one ton (1335kgs) of ivory has gone missing from the strong rooms of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). In a press release, UWA has confirmed the development thus "Our intelligence unit staff while on routine check up, discovered some irregularities in the management of the stores where confiscated ivory is kept." It is also reported that Museveni ordered for a thorough investigation and as such the Police, the anti graft body (IGG) and the INTERPOL have swung into action. UWA has is also reported to have suspended five of its officers including the Chief Ranger and the intelligence officers.

The ivory in UWA's custody originates from the following sources: -
-   ivory collected from elephants that die from natural causes in different national parks
-   ivory recovered from poachers by different national parks
-   ivory confiscated by custom authorities while in transit from Uganda
-   ivory seized by UWA officers from illicit dealers in urban centres
Such ivory is in two forms i.e. raw ivory (in its original form) and worked ivory (processed/curved into ornaments and trophies).

During the time of Uganda National Parks (UNP), each national park stored its own recovered ivory. A few stocks especially of seized ivory were stored by the head office in Kampala in the stores that are located within the premises of the Zoo in Entebbe. In the mid 90s when UNP transformed into UWA, all the ivory reserved in different national parks was removed and piled into the head office store in Entebbe Zoo. The same store served as an arms store for UWA guns and other wildlife trophies like rhino horns, leopard skins, etc. This store was managed and run by only one store man by the names of Prosper Waska. By structure, this store man fell under and was only answerable to the Executive Director.

When UWA constructed its own state of the art headquarters on Kiira Road next to the National Museum in Kampala, it provided for a modern strong room where all the ivory stocks from the former Entebbe Zoo stores were shifted and stored. This strong room is so secure that it can only be accessed through a password protected locking system operated by three officers at once. The door to the strong room can only be opened after entering the password in the right sequence or combination.

The password was contributed by three different staff members with each person contributing and keeping a few letters/digits that made up the password. Therefore, one needs all the three passwords contributing officers to be present to access the strong room. It is reported that for unclear reasons, with time the number of people contributing to the password reduced from three to only one and the password system was replaced by use of ordinary padlock and keys.

Around 2012 UWA discovered theft of ten pieces of ivory from its strong room. Out of the ten pieces only two were recovered from its own store man Prosper Wasike who was dragged to police. UWA has a method of marking all its stocks of ivory with a special label that is not easy to erase. These labels contain the serial number, date and weight of any piece of ivory and such data is entered the general register.

While the case against Prosper Wasike was being handled by the Police at CPS, a consignment of 440 pieces of raw ivory and 372 pieces if worked ivory was seized by custom authorities at Entebbe airport. Surprisingly, among the seized pieces of ivory there were three pieces that bore UWA labels! The matter was swept under the carpet and now we can see the outcome.  Prosper Wasike was simply dismissed from employment. For further reading visit Google and simply type in (Uganda wildlife authority/prosper Wasike).

Since Museveni and Kagame caused turmoil in eastern DRC in the late 90s, there has been a lot of carnage against elephants and heavy illegal ivory trade transiting to and through Uganda from DRC. The Uganda army has been implicated in illicit trade in ivory, precious minerals and timber from DRC. In 2004 a consignment of 3.8 tons of ivory suspected for having either originated from or transited through Uganda and shipped from Mombasa was impounded in China. Joint investigations by UWA and Kenya Wildlife services was at the verge of breaking through the mystery of the source of this consignment when the Uganda government arrested and charged of treason the UWA officer who was part of the investigation team.

For further reading visit Google and simply type (why Kampala is the heart of illegal ivory trade) or Kampala is the heart of illegal ivory trade. Among many other embarrassing incidents are the 250 kgs of ivory got lost from Makindye Magistrates court where it had been exhibited in a criminal trial the District Police Commander of Kiryandongo being intercepted at Matuga with stocks of ivory in a Police truck. Note: Kiryandongo district borders with Murchison Falls National Park.

Museveni's security machinery picked more interest in UWA around 2004 following the arrest over alleged treasonous activities by a UWA investigator. Since then state intelligence agencies have overtaken over the overseeing security and law enforcement in UWA. Squads of intelligence operatives are attached to different levels of structures of the wildlife body. A senior army intelligence officer is seconded to UWA to coordinate this role. First it was Lulu Itipa from President's office, them Maj. Peter Kashure from CMI, them Col. Henry Isoke from CMI and currently its Col. Charles Tusiime from CMI.

In August 2013, a total of 80 game rangers completed an intelligence training course at the army's school of Military Intelligence and Security (SOMI) at the Fort Portal army barracks. The pass out was presided over by the army Deputy Chief of Defence Forces (D/CDF). The course content was comprised of; security intelligence, counter intelligence, operational intelligence, criminal intelligence, reconnaissance, general intelligence and political education (NRM ideological indoctrination). The course content reveals more of a military intelligence training syllabus that a wildlife law enforcement oriented training. There are several conservation oriented organisations that can offer proper wildlife law enforcement training to UWA rangers better than the army's military intelligence.

Such training would encompass techniques in gathering intelligence on poachers and analysing it using modern equipment like cameras fixed with GPS units for photographic evidence, scene of crime management, undercover operations to trap illegal wildlife dealers, and wildlife crime database all aimed at gathering evidence for court room convictions. However, there is a sinister reason why instead the army opted to impose their military intelligence training on rangers. It is from among these so-called intelligence officers that UWA selected a few and posted them at the head office to manage the ivory strong room.

During the time of UNP, Museveni viewed the rangers, their Director Dr. Edroma and the then Tourism Minister Gen Moses Ali with suspicion. When UWA replaced UNP, the government banned the wildlife body from procuring and managing its own arms and instead the army took over provision and monitoring the use of arms by UWA. Initially because of grave incidents of insecurity in most of the national parks where the army had established its permanent presence, Museveni gave orders to shoot on sight any one who strays into the national parks.

In some instances, the rangers have exploited that reckless decree to brutalise the local communities. A Special Wildlife Force for Tourism (SWIFT) drawing its membership from the Police and the army's SFG was created and deployed into the different national parks. In April 2013, a total of 430wildlife rangers were trained by the army and passed out by Museveni at Parra in Murchison Falls National Park. Consequently, the rangers’ neutrality has been compromised thus been targeted, killed and their arms taken by unknown gunmen.

Around 2010 when Gen. Kahinda Otafiire was the Minister of Tourism, the government used him to fight and displace the top wildlife managers at the time. The move was motivated by the desire by the ruling clique to access and take control of the huge financial and material resources from the donors and the US dollars’ income from tourism. 

It came at a time when the regime had embarked on taking over control of all semi-autonomous bodies that generate/attract huge amounts of cash and resources i.e. former Customs, KCC, NSSF etc. Consequently, the then Executive Director Moses Mapesa was threatened with charges of treason before he was kicked out together with almost half of the top managers. This unprecedented and unilateral move by the regime left the wildlife body badly crippled whose effects we can now see in the theft of over a ton of ivory from a strong room. Those strong rooms also store arms and other precious wildlife trophies like leopard skins, rhino horns, hippo teeth, etc.

By the time of discovering the current theft, the password system had been reinstated and instituted a practice of stocktaking inventories conducted by an internal audit every three months to ensure that loss from the strong room can be detected early.

Theft of such a huge number of ivory stocks from a state of the art strong room must have involved a syndicate of both some top management and security managers. The lame excuse advanced by UWA to the effect that some law enforcement officers would often take out ivory pieces to ensnare suspected illegal ivory dealers does not hold water. Even so, such small pieces of ivory for undercover operations would weigh less than a Kilogram.

Such pieces would always be in the office drawers of UWA investigators since the ivory from the strong room is labeled with a special mark hence unsuitable for ensnaring potential illegal dealers. Also, unlike corruption related cases like bribery where undercover detectives need to trap the suspects with prearranged money/cash, wildlife crime is in most cases the other way around.

Wildlife law enforcement officers are the undercover buyers and all they would need from UWA is hard cash to pretend to be buying from the illegal wildlife dealers. In most cases when sanity reigned at UWA, law enforcement officers would only require management to avail them a white person (Mzungu) to be used as an undercover buyer; for dealers tend to trust whites as potential buyers.

Even the two or three pieces of unmarked ivory that is kept in the office drawers of UWA law enforcement personnel is not for ensnaring suspects but for education purposes i.e. showing informants how different forms of ivory look like and during seminars with other partner law enforcement agencies. Therefore, there is no way an investigator can claim to take away more than a kilogram leave alone a ton of marked ivory to ensnare an illegal dealer.

The army guy that is at the helm of security in UWA under whose nose the ivory has been stolen Col Charles Tusiime has a reputation for having high appetite for primitive wealth accumulation. He is a former mechanic who forgot the spare tyre when Museveni was going to attack Kabamba barracks in 1981. He was later captured by the government and spend much of the bush days in prison. Upon taking over power, he served under Military intelligence where he rose to become the Asst. Director for criminal investigations.

He grossly mismanaged criminal investigations that the abuse of office, theft, diversion of resources, creation of ghost soldiers etc. escalated to unimaginable proportions in the army. During the notorious Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU) he deputised ASP Magara before he was seconded to UWA where is currently in Charge of security. The security expertise that he has been rendering to UWA is now bearing fruits. The whole incident is not a surprise but an unfortunate shame to the organisation (UWA) and the regime.

However, there is a sinister motive behind the hasty incorporation of the IGG and INTERPOL in the preliminary inquiries.

Change of Guards Blog 


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