By Simon Musasizi
The rising number of the clergy arrested in the ivory business is beginning to worry conservationists. In two months, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has, on separate occasions, arrested two clergymen belonging to Rwenzori diocese, dealing in ivory.
Reverend Misaki Maitene was the first clergyman to be arrested with two pieces of ivory in July. And like a pointer to a racket involving several reverends, last Friday, UWA arrested yet another reverend dealing in ivory. Rev Ben Baguma of Rwabisengo archdeaconry in Ntoroko, Rwenzori diocese, was arrested with two pieces weighing 25kg.
"These can't be isolated cases," said UWA's law enforcement officer, Moses Olinga. "We have to investigate the fact that this could be a racket involving several reverends," he added.
When paraded in front of the press at the UWA offices last week, Rev Baguma reiterated that he was innocent, and that the whole episode was a big misunderstanding. He was, nevertheless, taken to the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka, where he is remanded. According to Olinga, the arrest of Rev Baguma comes after they recently found two elephants that had been shot dead in Kibaale national park.
This prompted the authority to plant informers in the area to disguise as buyers of ivory. The reverend, who said he had four pieces of ivory, was tracked using his phone before the informers met with him in Rwimi town. He then led them to the scene of the ivory in Rubalika village, where they were confiscated.
The ivory was found at Muhereza Kamuhangire's home, who the law enforcement officers say, is a known poacher in the village. They even suspect him of owning a gun. During the interaction, the criminals told them that they had more ivory, which they said was not yet dry. Each kilo was to be bought at a cost of Shs 300,000, which means that for the 25kg, they were assured of Shs 7.5m. More....