LATF Builds Capacity and Catalyses Inter-Agency Cooperation among Enforcement and Judicial Officers from Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo

Brazzaville, Congo 11th April 2023. A five-day multiagency capacity-building workshop for law enforcement and judicial officers from Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently underway at the Mikhael’s Hotel in Brazzaville, Congo. The workshop has brought together high-ranking officials from various enforcement agencies and the judiciary in Congo and DRC among them officials from Wildlife, Forestry, Customs, Police/Interpol, Prosecution and Judiciary, with the primary objective of improving their ability to combat wildlife and forest crime, and the illegal trade in their parts, products, and derivatives. Specifically, the program aims to achieve this by increasing the capacity and skills of enforcement officers, as well as promoting dialogue and collaboration between the two countries to develop effective strategies and actions to combat wildlife and forest crime.

The workshop has been jointly organized by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, Grace Farms Foundation, University of Washington, and Congo National Bureau to the Lusaka Agreement, operating under the Ministry of Forest Economy of Congo. It is co-funded by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the Grace Farms Foundation.

Group photo of the Chief Guest, Hon. Dr. Rosalie Matondo MP (Seated 3rd from left) and participants

The opening session, held on 11th April 2023, was addressed by the Chief Guest, Honourable Dr. Rosalie Matondo, Minister for Forest Economy of the Republic of Congo. The honourable minister highlighted the insufficient knowledge and skills among law enforcement personnel in Africa, which hinders effective law enforcement. She emphasized that inadequate cooperation among States and agencies and insufficient resources exacerbate the problem. The minister stressed the importance of fighting wildlife crime, which threatens peace, security, and subregional integrity. She added that to effectively mitigate the negative effects occasioned by wildlife crime, there is need to foster interstate and interagency cooperation to bolster the law enforcement capacity and sustainable management of biodiversity. “We become winners if we share information to address these potent threats in Africa”, she added.

Dr. Matondo applauded the Republic of Congo’s efforts in combating wildlife crime, demonstrated by the incineration of 5 tonnes of elephant tusks by President Sassou Nguesso in April 2015. She lauded the efforts of the partners in organizing such vital programs and emphasized that bringing together the agencies attests to the willingness and goodwill of the two countries to the effective conservation of wildlife for sustainable development. She commended the partners for organizing such vital programs, which attested to the willingness and goodwill of the two countries to conserve wildlife sustainably. The minister appealed to the Democratic Republic of Congo to ratify the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora to facilitate concerted efforts in countering transboundary illegal trade in wild fauna and flora in the Congo basin.

Mr. Edward Phiri, Director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), advised that illegal wildlife trade is not only a growing threat to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development but also a pervasive problem that jeopardizes our way of life. With an estimated value of USD 23 billion annually, it is now the fourth most profitable illegal trade after drugs, arms, and human trafficking. He emphasized the integral role of LATF in coordinating national efforts, building capacity, and fostering cooperation among states and law enforcement agencies to combat this scourge of illicit trade in wild fauna and flora. Mr. Phiri urged participants to share their expertise, knowledge, and experiences during the workshop and work together to create a robust network of experts with diverse skillsets and experience, all committed to ending the illegal wildlife trade. “The solution to this lies in sound and even more importantly best practices in cooperative law enforcement, which are critical to proactive, well-planned and more purposeful operations” he said. Mr. Phiri concluded by reminding everyone that our actions today will determine the legacy we leave for future generations, and he urged them to make it a positive one.

Mr. Rod Khattabi, formerly US Department of Homeland Security (HSI) Federal Agent and currently the Chief Accountability Officer and Justice Initiative Director at Grace Farms Foundation, commended the fruitful partnership between his organization, Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the University of Washington-Seattle in carrying out such programs. We want to optimize our resources and impart relevant skills on how to surmount this challenge,” he said. He averred 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.

In addition to Mr Khattabi and Mr Phiri, the other instructors in the ongoing session are Professor Samuel Wasser from the University of Washington-Seattle USA, Eric Caron a consultant from the USA, Lt-Colonel Emmanuel MISSALIKI from INTERPOL NCB-Brazzaville, Mr. C’KOUAYOUKOU Roland Wilfrid, Public Prosecutor from Djambala, Congo, Mr. Herman Péa, from Court of Appeal in Owando, Congo and Bienvenu Guy BABELA, Advisor to Minister for Forest Economy of the Republic of Congo.  

The Republic of Congo is one of the six (6) member states to the Lusaka Agreement composed of Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Tanzania and Zambia and three signatories namely Ethiopia, Eswatini and South Africa.

Elephants, rhinos, pangolins, various bird species, various fish species, timber and other assorted plants have borne the brunt of wildlife criminals who target them for smuggling out of Africa to several destinations in Asia.


Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!