Some of Uganda’s laws are outdated and thus not in position to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
Cases in point are the laws on drug trafficking as well as poaching and smuggling of high-value items such as ivory.
When such laws, most of which provide for a few years in jail or small fines, were enacted, the said crimes were not as prevalent or as destructive as they are today, hence the tendency to be lenient. Now that it’s looking increasingly clear some of these laws are out of touch, it’s time to update them.
This is necessary to stop Uganda turning into the world’s capital of illicit drug and wildlife products trade, given that unscrupulous characters from all over the world are already taking advantage of this weak legal regime.
The newly appointed Director of Public Prosecutions, Mike Chibita, was recently quoted as saying he would like to see tougher sentences for drug trafficking offenders, and we agree in principle.
However, while the death penalty might be politically incorrect, life imprisonment should be deterrent enough for peddling in deadly drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Besides drugs, another deadly activity that the established laws appear too weak to confront is poaching and transacting in high-value animal products, particularly ivory.
Incidents of ivory being intercepted in Uganda have been rising, including a recent case of a priest arrested in western Uganda and two tonnes impounded at Mombasa, having originated from Uganda.
This month, ivory weighing as much 1,903kg was intercepted by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) while on its way out of the country. The sheer magnitude of the catch, worth about Shs 1.6bn, reminds us that some 416 elephants could have been slaughtered in the process.
Whether this consignment originated from Uganda, DR Congo, Burundi or elsewhere, the numbers are simply mindboggling. It means if such a trade were allowed to continue, there would be no elephants left in sub-Saharan African within a few decades!
Tougher laws might not completely eliminate drug trafficking and illegal ivory trade, but they will supplement other efforts in that regard.