The extra ordinary meeting of the Bureau of the 10th Governing Council of the Lusaka Agreement closed on 27th June 2014 with key decisions adopted to implement the Agreement. The meeting was held at Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya from 26th to 27th June 2014 to pave way for the 11th Governing Council meeting in 2015. In attendance, were the Governing Council Bureau officials comprising Ministers responsible for wildlife and/or forest conservation namely Hon. Henri DJOMBO (MP)-President (Congo), Hon. Maria Mutagamba (MP)-Vice-President (Uganda) and Hon. Lawrence Evans (MP)-Rapporteur (Zambia). The High Commissioner of Canada to Kenya H.E. David Angell, and Mr. Gideon Gathaara, the Conservation Secretary and representative of the Minister for Environment, Water and Natural resources of Kenya graced the ministerial session.
The ministerial session held on 27th June 2014 was preceded by the meeting of Experts of the Bureau of the Governing Council held on 26th June 2014 at the same venue. The experts were drawn from the three Parties represented at the Bureau namely Congo, Uganda and Zambia. Some experts from Kenya and Tanzania also joined the team of experts of the bureau during the sessions.
The meeting reviewed and made substantive decisions on the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement which included among other things adoption of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) reports for the financial year ending 30th June 2013 as well as the year 2014/2015 Proposals, Programme of Work and Budgets. The meeting discussed other pertinent issues in respect to escalating trends in transnational wildlife crime globally, in the African region and especially Lusaka Agreement member states.
While renewing the commitment of the Government of Congo to the Lusaka Agreement, Hon. DJOMBO, the President of the Governing Council of the Lusaka Agreement and Minister for Forest Economy and Sustainable Development of the Republic of Congo, urged all the member states and other African states as well as the conservation fraternity and the donor community globally to support and participate in the forthcoming International Conference against biodiversity crime, which will be hosted by the government of Congo in Brazzaville in October 2014. The Minister indicated that the conference which precedes the 11th Session of the Lusaka Agreement Governing Council scheduled for May 2015 in Brazzaville, Congo, will deliberate on regional strategy to strengthening wildlife security to minimise loss of biodiversity resources occasioned by illegal exploitation and trafficking among others. He stated that this was a great opportunity for African countries to come together and design the best institutional approach that is well-resourced, equipped and user friendly for all African states and partners in support of the regional fight against biodiversity crime.
Ministers from the Republics of Uganda, Zambia and Kenya, and the officials from the United Republic of Tanzania, emphasized that effective cooperation, exchange of experiences and information sharing amongst African government enforcement agencies were critical in the fight against poaching and trafficking and that the Lusaka Agreement remains the most appropriate mechanism addressing transnational organised wildlife crime in Africa. . The Ministers also renewed the commitment of their respective governments to the implementation and promotion of the Agreement and to continue supporting the work of its operational arm, LATF. They reiterated the need to mobilise more resources and political support across the continent to enable LATF meet expectations of the Lusaka Agreement members and other African states.
The High Commissioner of Canada welcomed LATF’s initiative of establishing “Friends of LATF“, a group of governments committed to effective conservation of biodiversity resources in Africa and globally coming together in a partnership arrangement in support of LATF programmes and activities. The High Commissioner pledged the support of the government of Canada to spearhead the initiative. He indicated that this will assist in mobilising requisite resources to increase and diversify LATF’s interventions in the region and globally.
The Director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force reaffirmed LATF’s resolve and commitment to fulfilling its regional mandate in achieving goals and objectives of the Agreement and other biodiversity related conventions such as CITES, CBD and CMS. Appreciating the efforts by Lusaka Agreement member states’ and partnering organisations in supporting the work of LATF, the Director further called upon them and all good friends of Africa to continue extending technical and financial support to LATF so as to make this unique regional enforcement mechanism more effective in the fight against transnational organised wildlife crime in Africa.
The meeting adopted six (6) Decisions with thirty action points for implementation by organs of the Lusaka Agreement.
Participants commended LATF efforts and expressed their strong commitment to continue strengthening the implementation of the Agreement on combating transnational organised wildlife crime in Africa through regional co-operative enforcement operations, joint capacity building programmes, enhanced synergies among states and sub-regional enforcement agencies/networks in a multi-sectoral approach where the Judiciaries, Customs and Police services should play a pivotal role.