By Wolfgang H. Thome
Last weekend security operatives, working hand in hand with enforcement officers from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, arrested two Chinese and two Guineans in Kampala, with a haul of over 1.9 tons of blood ivory ready to be shipped out of the country. Earlier in the week 116 kilos of ivory were confiscated at the airport.
Following that seizure, UWA intelligence personnel were able to confiscate the larger consignment which was due to leave the country by road to Mombasa and make the arrests.
The Guineans, according to a Kampala based source, were already arrested two weeks earlier and their testimony thought to be crucial in arresting the Chinese.
Ugandan officials were swift in reassuring that the ivory was not likely to have come from inside Uganda but was brought into the country from possibly Eastern Congo or South Sudan, where poaching is rife and little done in terms of law enforcement to protect their elephants or prevent regular smuggling of the contraband out of the country. One of the parcels seized appears to have been sent by overland bus from Bujumbura / Burundi to Uganda, but as no poaching figures are available from Burundi it is again suspected that the ivory could have come from either neighbouring Congo DR or even from Tanzania, where in recent weeks the government finally seems to take a stand and make a more determined effort to combat poaching and ivory smuggling.
The four now in custody in Kampala are considered important elements in the search for financiers and traders and indication was given that more arrests could be made soon to hopefully dismantle the entire smuggling operation using Uganda as a transit point for their criminal activities. Well done UWA.