Lusaka Agreement on Co-operative Enforcement Operations
Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora “Fostering cooperation to support conservation of wild fauna and flora”
LATF and Collaborators Successfully Hold Final Session of Regional Training Programs for Law Enforcement Agencies in East Africa
Entebbe-Uganda, Monday 6th February 2023: An advanced training workshop program aimed at reducing maritime trafficking of wildlife between Africa and Asia is underway in Entebbe, Uganda. The five-day multi-agency training is part of a series of regional trainings themed “Reducing Maritime Trafficking of Wildlife Between Africa and Asia”, involving participants from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This training, which ends a series of four (4) trainings, is being held at the Protea Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda and will end on 10th February 2023. The workshop is aimed at upskilling enforcement officers in fighting illegal wildlife trade. Previous training programs were conducted in Mombasa-Kenya, Arusha-Tanzania, and Dar es Salaam-Tanzania in March 2022, May/June 2022 and August 2022 respectively.
The Permanent Secretary (PS), Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities of Uganda, Madam Doreen Katusiime, graced the opening session of the training program on Monday, 6th February 2023 and delivered a keynote address. The PS stated that the biggest challenge to effective law enforcement in Africa is the inadequate knowledge and skills among law enforcement personnel and emphasized the need for adequate cooperation and resources to combat illegal exploitation of the environment. The regional training has drawn participants mainly from multiple enforcement agencies namely wildlife, forestry, police, prosecution financial intelligence and customs from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda
She added that to effectively mitigate the negative effects occasioned by wildlife crime, there is need to pragmatically enforce the applicable laws and regulations as stringently as possible to ensure that such training programs are instrumental in bolstering the law enforcement capacity of the agencies in addressing these potent threats in Africa. “This is why we are proud to be members of the Lusaka Agreement, being actively implemented by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force that is spearheading such transformative initiatives together with partners”, she added.
The Chief Guest affirmed that the Republic of Uganda had made significant strides in curtailing wildlife crime and promoting conservation. She highlighted some of the notable achievements made by the country, including: Establishment and operationalization of the National anti-Wildlife Crime Coordination Task Force (NWCCTF); Amending laws to enhance penalties for wildlife related offences. We now have the Uganda’s 2019 Wildlife Act, a new legislation, under which violators can face life imprisonment, or both; Intensification of security especially at border (entry/exit) points and strengthening capacity of law enforcement personnel and institutions that are charged with the responsibility to protect wildlife against illicit exploitation.
The representative of the Executive Director Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mr. Chemonges Sabila, appreciated the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and partners for organizing such important capacity building programs that are integral in upskilling officers to effectively combat environmental crime in the three countries. He emphasized that Uganda will continue working closely with the partners to ensure enforcement in Uganda and other Lusaka Agreement member states is well equipped with the necessary skill sets for purposes of conserving biodiversity for posterity.
Mr Edward Phiri, Director of Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), exuded confidence that upon completion of the training sessions, participants will have what it takes to reduce and ultimately eradicate maritime trafficking of wildlife between Africa and Asia. Mr. Phiri emphasized that with the increasing sophistication of wildlife crime, it is crucial for law enforcement officers to be equipped with the latest knowledge and requisite skills to tackle transnational organized wildlife crime. He avowed that LATF is committed to strengthening wildlife law enforcement in Africa and is proud to support this advanced Multi-Agency Capacity Building Workshop. These training programs, in partnership with organizations such as the US Department of Homeland Security/Homeland Security Investigations, UNDP, USAID, and the University of Washington Seattle, will equip participants with advanced financial crimes investigations, asset recovery modules, and criminal intelligence and investigations techniques”, he stated.
The Assistant Director at the Tanzania Wildlife Division who doubles up as Chairman of the National Taskforce for Anti-Poaching (NTAP) in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Robert Mande, lauded the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) and the collaborating partners for convening the regional training programs. He said the programs which call for multiagency and multipronged approaches would go a long way in strengthening the law enforcement capacity of member states to the Lusaka Agreement.
Sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Grace Farms Foundation (GFF), the training is a brainchild of the LATF, Grace Farms Foundation (GFF), the US Department of Homeland Security (HSI), the University of Washington, the Global Wildlife Program and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
“We are here as a partnership of LATF, US Department of Homeland Security – HSI and its Global Trade Division, UNDP, USAID, University of Washington-Seattle, and GEF. We want to optimize our resources and impart relevant skills on how to surmount this challenge,” said Mr Rod Khattabi who formerly worked under the US Department of Homeland Security (HSI) Federal Agent and currently the Chief Accountability Officer and Justice Initiative Director at Grace Farms Foundation. He underscored that illegal wildlife trade is among the largest transnational organized crimes, often operated by well-organized criminal syndicates all located in different towns, regions, countries and continents. “This program is designed to impart skills and deploy innovative and scientific approaches to addressing wildlife and forest crime” he reiterated.
In addition to Mr Khattabi and Mr Phiri, the other instructors in the ongoing session are HSI Special Agent (HSI San Diego), Mr. Michael Lesley, HSI Program Manager Mr. Elliott Harbin, Professor Samuel Wasser from the University of Washington, and Ms. Joan Keko from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) – Uganda.
Uganda is one of the seven (7) member states to the Lusaka Agreement composed of Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, Liberia, Zambia, and Congo Brazzaville and three signatories namely Ethiopia, Eswatini and South Africa.
Available data depicts that illegal wildlife trade is among the four most lucrative illicit trafficking globally and estimated to be worth up to $23 billion annually, and counting. Wildlife criminals target elephants, rhinos, pangolins, various bird species, timber and other assorted plants for smuggling out of Africa to a number of destinations in Asia.