Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) successfully organized and convened a Kenya/Uganda Wildlife Security Meeting held from 23rd – 24th February 2016 at the Aturukan Hotel in Kitale, Kenya. The meeting aimed at fostering cooperation among enforcement agencies in the two sister states to combat wildlife and associated crimes particularly within the Mt. Elgon Trans-boundary Ecosystem.
It brought together 34 participants from various agencies from the two states including Kenya Wildlife Service, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kenya Forest Service, National Forest Authority of Uganda, Immigration (Kenya & Uganda), Kenya Revenue Authority, Uganda Revenue Authority, Internal Security and Natural Resources. Also in attendance were observers representatives of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (administered by the High Commission of Canada to Kenya), which provided financial support for the meeting courtesy of the Government of Canada.
The opening session was presided over by the Chief Guest Mr. Seif Matata, County Commissioner of Trans-Nzoia County. Also gracing the session was the Director LATF Mr. Bonaventure Ebayi as well as the Kenyan and Ugandan Heads of Delegations Mr. Abdi Doti and Dr. Adonia Bintoora respectively.
Making his remarks during the opening session, the Kenyan Head of delegation Mr. Abdi Doti expressed concern that wildlife crime was increasingly becoming complex and a major impediment to environmental conservation and socio-economic development. He stressed that it was high time the agencies increased their responsiveness and acted jointly and swiftly to reverse the alarming trends. He indicated that the problem is aggravated by inadequate cooperation among states and agencies, compounded by insufficient capacity to strengthen efforts in addressing this vice. Mr. Doti stated that the Kenya Wildlife service was emboldened more than ever before to counter this challenge and that is why it readily joins other agencies from the two countries and partners in formulating policies and implementing strategies towards curtailing trans-boundary wildlife crime. He applauded the efforts of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and partners for spearheading such cross-border initiatives and mobilizing the requisite funding.
The Ugandan Head of Delegation, Dr. Adonia Bintoora, commended the initiation of such a formal forum terming it a first of its kind between the two countries to discuss and formulate strategies to address wildlife crime which was becoming more challenging to tackle. He said UWA had successfully initiated a similar arrangement with Rwanda and D.R. Congo to contain wildlife crime within the Albertine region. He affirmed that the Ugandan government will continue to support LATF efforts in securing the integrity of protected areas and wildlife resources and called for strong collaboration, coordination and networking in combating wildlife crime. He thanked LATF for organizing the meeting, which he anticipated would come up with plausible strategies for strengthening cooperation and addressing the wildlife crime challenge in the region.
The Director of LATF, Mr. Bonaventure Ebayi, stated that the meeting was designed to cultivate synergy among agencies and acknowledged that the presence of state institutions at the meeting was reminiscent of a strong and long standing partnership between the two countries focused on addressing a mutual problem. He reiterated that the initiative was not only the onset of a revival to cross border collaboration, but crystallization of strong cooperation and mutual support between two countries that are committed to ensuring the sustained management and conservation of the trans-boundary ecosystem through joint interventions to maintain its integrity. The Director stated that in fulfillment of its mandate, LATF had and continues to initiate and participate in similar cross border wildlife security initiatives emphasizing the benefits that accrue from such activities. He added that working together, sharing of resources, information and experiences and building capacity will catalyze determination and buttress the collective efforts of the agencies in addressing common challenges in the fight against wildlife crime in the two sister states.
The Chief Guest Mr. Seif Matata, lauded the meeting as strategic and being held at a time when the world was increasingly getting concerned about unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. He appreciated that the meeting was important not only for the security of environmental resources, but also the security of national economies and the livelihoods of the local people in both countries. He reiterated that the initiative was critical in marshaling support needed to reverse the current worrying trends in environmental crime. He cited a myriad of challenges bedeviling the Mt. Elgon transboundary ecosystem and recognized the immense contribution being made by the agencies including wildlife, forestry, immigration, customs, police and administration in surmounting the challenges and mainly in deterring criminal acts. The County Commissioner reaffirmed the Government of Kenya’s commitment to continue forging closer cooperation with other states and moreso Uganda and to do everything possible within its means to stop poaching and illicit trade in wild fauna and flora in the region. He commended LATF for initiating and organizing the important meeting and thanked the Government of Canada for the financial support.
The interactive meeting deliberated on transboundary issues affecting the ecosystem focusing on conservation challenges and arrived at recommendations (read more) towards addressing them, some of which include:.
• Formalizing the Kenya/Uganda cross border collaboration between the two sister states, and such consultative fora to be held more regularly to enhance cooperation and closer working relationship;
• Undertaking joint law enforcement activities including enforcement operations, sharing of intelligence/information, best practices, expertise, experience, skills and knowledge as well as capacity building programs;
• Pooling resources and joint fund raising to support enforcement activities.
LATF is indebted and sincerely appreciates the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and for participating in the meeting. It also reassures the Lusaka Agreement member states of its steadfastness to continue organizing and implementing such programs in fulfillment of its goal to facilitate cooperative enforcement activities directed at illegal trade in wild fauna and flora in the region.