Why Uganda’s National Symposium for Prosecutors marks a critical point in the fight against wildlife crime

Director of Public Prosecutions Jane Frances Abodo explains the urgent need for countries to come together to fight criminals and protect our natural world.

Friday 29 April 2022 11:21
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‘This week the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions hosts a National Symposium  of Prosecutors, in memory of the late Assistant DPP Joan Kagezi, who was assassinated  in March 2015.

The conference’s theme is “Human and Wildlife Security for Sustainable Development”, which brings to the fore the importance of both human life and wildlife globally, the co-existence of the two cannot be underestimated. 

In Uganda, wildlife creates over 600,000 job opportunities, making it a huge contributor to economic development. Before Covid, wildlife tourism was one of the country’s highest foreign exchange earners - bringing in close to US $1.2 billion annually. Thus, we know we must secure wildlife in order to secure human life.

The planet is at a critical point in the protection of the natural world. For example, the illegal destruction of forests in Uganda threatens the very existence of some species. There is a desperate need for law enforcement agencies to ensure that perpetrators face the full extent of the law to act as a deterrence. That is where Uganda’s prosecutors come in. 

Uganda has taken the conservation of wildlife extremely seriously. The establishment of a specialised court to handle wildlife cases has ensured the timely disposal of cases, while the National Wildlife Crime Coordination Task Force is an interagency platform established mainly to promote cooperation and coordination among member institutions through information sharing, joint operations and prosecution guided investigations.

Meaningful progress in the fight against wildlife crime can only happen by sharing knowledge with others, because the criminals are always a step ahead in trying to devise means of beating the system. 

That is why holding the National Symposium for Prosecutors is so critical. The last such conference was held in 2011 due to financial constraints and recovery from the effects of the pandemic. Since then, wildlife traffickers and criminals have devised means of selling protected species and products online, including through Twitter and Facebook, with payments through digital and crypto currencies. 

One agency alone cannot fight these advanced networks of organised crime. The National Symposium of Prosecutors is an avenue through which skills and knowledge on how to handle current crime trends can be acquired, the mechanisms to combat such crimes and their dynamics can be discussed, and stakeholders can meet to foster better communication and collaboration.

I am hopeful that the symposium has created opportunities to further the global protection of wildlife through international cooperation. 

The success of the symposium has been largely due to the support of our sponsors, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Space for Giants, the Governance and Security (Access to Justice) Program and Housing Finance Bank for both technical and financial support for which we are very grateful. The fact that they agreed to come together reflects the importance of this symposium and its objective of building the technical capacity of investigators, prosecutors and other stakeholders involved in the administration of justice and foster collaboration and coordination between stakeholders.

In addition, fighting transnational organisational crimes requires a collaborative effort. Therefore, partners such as Operation Underground Railroad, Kyampisi Child Care Ministries, the Governance and Security (Access to Justcie) Program, Human TraffickingInstitute supplement government efforts in offering protection and support services to victims of crime.

The capacity of investigators and prosecutors to effectively investigate and prosecute wildlife criminals has been vastly enhanced over time, and it is my great hope that we will continue to strengthen our united ability to prevent wildlife crimes so that our natural world can thrive.’

 

The Joan Kagezi Memorial Week is sponsored by the Government of Uganda, Office of the DPP, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Space for Giants, Operation Underground Railroad, Kyampisi Child Care Ministries, the Governance and Security (Access to Justice) Program, the Human Trafficking Institute and Housing Finance Bank.

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