By Wolfgang H. Thome
Justice Kenneth Kakuru came to the rescue of the reputation of Uganda’s judiciary when he granted an injunction to the applicants Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority, halting the release of blood ivory the two organizations confiscated last year. Judge Masalu Musene last week, in a ruling which deeply upset conservationists and was felt as an extraordinary act of miscarriage of justice, released the ivory back to a Congolese owner, who, though not in court and wanted by a domestic and Interpol arrest warrant, had applied to court to get his illicit cargo released. Musene, it is understood from reliably sources, is already now subject to an unfolding process of judicial review and according to another source also subject to a potential criminal enquiry, over how he arrived at his ruling, with allegations flying high at this stage.
UWA and URA appealed the ruling and Uganda’s Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Maria Mutagamba, also condemned Musene’s ruling in the strongest possible terms, setting in motion a process to remove him from the bench for gross misconduct, if proven guilty of any offence.
The latest twist in this saga was immediately hailed as a huge success by the conservation fraternity in Uganda and like in Kenya, where weak rulings under the new wildlife law caused widespread outrage, also seen as serving notice to magistrates and judges to either join in the fight against poaching or else be treated themselves as poachers of common sense and the tools available to them under existing laws.