Uganda's courtroom rangers

A new collaboration is launched to train Uganda Wildlife Authority officers to tackle poachers in the courtroom

Oliver Poole@IndyVoices
Wednesday 09 November 2016 13:01
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Poaching has driven a 30% decline in Africa's savannah elephants
Poaching has driven a 30% decline in Africa's savannah elephants

Wildlife officers in Uganda are to receive professional legal training on how to prosecute poachers and punish those involved in the illegal wildlife trade through the country’s courts.

Conservation charity Space for Giants has partnered with the Uganda Conservation Foundation and Tusk Trust to enable eight Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officers to undertake a range of undergraduate and postgraduate legal qualifications.

This will improve the capacity of UWA’s in-house prosecution office and allow it to supply a lawyer to every one of the country’s protected conservation areas.

“The law is such an effective tool in tackling the illegal wildlife trade, and these rangers will be developing vital professional skills to help them do so,” Anne-Marie Weeden, General Manager of Uganda Conservation Foundation, said. “We’re delighted to be part of this collaborative effort to support the development of the UWA legal team.”

Five officers from UWA have been selected by the UWA legal department to study for their Law Diploma at the Law Development Centre in Kampala. The course commenced in September and lasts for one year.

Once they have graduated, the officers will be given delegated prosecutorial powers, increasing the size of the prosecution unit for UWA from 10 to 15.

A further three UWA rangers already working in the legal department, will attain higher professional qualifications in a Bachelors of Law, a Masters of Law and a postgraduate bar diploma respectively.

The scholarships are supported by the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) and Tusk Trust on their joint project countering wildlife crime in Uganda, funded by the UK Government through the IWT Challenge Fund. Space for Giants initiated the selection of UWA candidates and will assist UWA and UCF by mentoring the selected candidates over the coming year.

“This support to UWA affirms the commitment of Space for Giants and its partners to the strengthening of the criminal justice framework that addresses prosecutions in Uganda,” said Shamini Jayanathan, Space for Giant’s Director of Wildlife Protection.

“UWA prosecutors are able to prosecute under all laws of Uganda, not just wildlife specific statutes, thus enabling the UWA to support the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the fight against wildlife crime.”

The collaboration builds on the work already underway in Uganda by Space for Giants, supported by ICCF, UNODC and Stop Ivory, to develop an anti-illegal wildlife trade prosecution toolkit for use by the local judiciary, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, UWA and the Ministry of Tourism.

Together the two projects will enable Uganda’s prosecution bodies to bring stronger prosecutions to court, and thereby more effectively secure convictions of those involved in trafficking of Uganda's natural heritage.

The partnership is the latest in a series of conservation projects that follows the Giants Club summit convened by Space for Giants and hosted by the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, in April. The goal of the Giants Club is to effectively protect some 200,000 elephants – 50% of the continental total – by 2020.

With Gabon, the Giants Club's other member states are Kenya, Botswana and Uganda. Together these countries are home to almost half remaining savannah elephants and some 70 per cent of the forest elephant.

Projects so far implemented include the commencement of work to construct specialist fences to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Gabon and Kenya, as well as anti-poacher initiatives in Botswana.

The Giants Club is supported by ESI Media, the UK-based media group that owns the London Evening Standard newspaper and The Independent digital sites. ESI Media's owner, Evgeny Lebedev, is patron of the Giants Club.

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