Libreville, Gabon July 14, 2023 – Mr. Edward Phiri, the Director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), recently participated in a panel discussion during a workshop organized by the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is an academic institution within the U.S. Department of Defense established and funded by Congress for the study of security issues relating to Africa and serving as a forum for bilateral and multilateral research, communication, training, and exchange of ideas involving military and civilian participants. It serves as a forum for research, academic programs, and the exchange of ideas with the aim of enhancing citizen security by strengthening the effectiveness and accountability of African institutions.
The workshop, held in Libreville from 10th to 14th July 2023, focused on coordinating security sector responses to counter illegal logging. Mr. Phiri shared insights and expertise on the role of the Lusaka Agreement in building resilience against organized crime linked to illegal logging and timber trafficking.
During the panel discussion, Mr. Phiri addressed several thematic questions posed to him, highlighting the significance of the Lusaka Agreement to African states in combating wildlife and forest crime. He emphasized that the multi-billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade poses a global crisis that not only threatens protected species of fauna and flora but also has severe social, economic and environmental consequences. Mr. Phiri underscored the urgent need for concerted efforts to effectively address transnational and organized crime.
The Lusaka Agreement on Co-operative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora, adopted by African states in 1994, serves as a crucial tool in this fight against illegal logging and timber trafficking. Mr. Phiri highlighted the Agreement’s integral role in facilitating international cooperation and enhancing the capacity of member states to combat cross-border wildlife crimes. LATF, serving as the Agreement’s Secretariat and regional wildlife enforcement agency, plays a pivotal role in coordinating enforcement measures and intelligence sharing among member states.
Concrete results achieved by signatory States were also presented during the panel discussion. Mr. Phiri highlighted successful prosecutions of organized crime networks and the implementation of enhanced legislation frameworks for protecting endangered species in countries such as Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. He further emphasized LATF’s significant role in coordinating intelligence-led field operations, resulting in the recovery of substantial amounts of illegal timber, ivory, rhino horns, big cat skins, reptile skins, and live animals. Over 900 suspects, including kingpins, have been arrested as a result of these operations, he said.
Mr. Phiri also drew attention to the practical highlights from LATF’s 2022 Achievement Report, showcasing the valuable lessons and best practices that LATF countries can offer to others. One key lesson learned is the importance of building trusted relationships, cultivating synergies and understanding the needs of different players in the criminal justice chain. The transnational nature of organized crime necessitates cooperative law enforcement and partnerships between law enforcement bodies such as, customs, wildlife authorities, and other relevant agencies. Mr. Phiri emphasized the significance of information sharing, capacity building and financial investigations in cracking down on wildlife trafficking networks.
Looking ahead, Mr. Phiri outlined the next steps that the LATF plans to take to enhance its work in countering illegal logging. The Task Force aims to strengthen its membership and expand its reach through collaborations and partnerships. Notably, plans are underway for the establishment of the Lusaka Agreement Command and Control Centre and the LATF Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, which will serve as a central hub for coordination and collaboration in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. He noted that partnerships with international organizations, law enforcement agencies, and NGOs will continue to strengthen the collective response to crimes on illegal flora and fauna.
In conclusion, Mr. Phiri expressed his gratitude to the organisers and workshop participants for their active engagement and encouraged ongoing efforts to protect Africa’s environmental resources. He stressed that Lusaka Agreement Task Force remains committed to its mission of combating wildlife and forest crime, and the Director’s participation in the panel discussion further reinforced the importance of international cooperation and coordinated efforts in countering illegal logging and timber trafficking.
The workshop brought together more than 60 participants drawn from countries whose security is notably affected by the illicit trade in rare hardwoods, which included: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia.
The programme and materials for the workshop are provided on the link: https://africacenter.org/programs/2023-07-ctoc-illegal-logging/ on Coordinating Security Sector Responses to Illegal Logging Program.