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China protests Museveni ivory trafficking charges

President Museveni

Chinese ambassador Zheng Zhuqiang has strongly disputed some of the claims contained in President Museveni’s letter to the inspector general of government, ordering an investigation into the affairs of Uganda Wildlife Authority and two Chinese diplomats.

In his May 2 letter, the president accused two Chinese diplomats named Li Wejin and one Yinzhi of involvement in the illegal sale of ivory smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Museveni asked IGG Irene Mulyagonja  to investigate this matter and others pertaining to impropriety at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).  The president said he had been told these diplomats connived with UWA officials to engage in illicit ivory trade in Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Speaking to The Observer yesterday, Zheng advised President Museveni to cross-check his information.

“There are no such diplomats here [at the embassy], I think all of this is groundless [and] based on some wrong [information]. It is all totally wrong; no one at the embassy is known by such names. I think he needs to check his sources of information,” Zheng said.

Shocked by the president’s claims, Zheng said they had checked records of previous years to ascertain whether the embassy has had staff known by such names but didn’t find any.

“We are going to protest to the ministry of Foreign Affairs because [the investigation] concerns our diplomats. I think the ministry should restore our embassy’s reputation,” he said.

The illegal trade in ivory involving Chinese diplomats is among the eight issues the president asked the ombudsman to investigate. Others include the illegal export of pangolin (olugave), murders in the national parks, and procurement of gorilla tracking software.

Museveni also wants UWA bosses to be investigated for alleged extravagant travel expenses, ignoring his repeated directives to erect electric fences around national parks, and soliciting bribes from banks keeping their money.

“In view of the above, I, therefore, request that you investigate these allegations and give me a report. If there is a prima facie case, the executive director should be suspended,” Museveni wrote.

His letter is copied to Vice President Edward Ssekandi, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, and Attorney General William Byaruhanga.

UWA spokesman Simplicious Gessa told The Observer yesterday that the authority’s management was not aware of the alleged collaboration of some of its staff with Chinese nationals in the ivory trade.

On the export of pangolin, Museveni told the IGG that UWA’s Executive Director Andrew Seguya had contravened international conventions by licensing “some Chinese” to export pangolin (Olugave) meat and scales.

According to Gessa, in July 2014, UWA recommended one Smith Ewa Maku, a Ugandan national and proprietor of SmicoSkin Craft Industries Ltd, to the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities for licenses to export 7,310kg of the giant pangolin in accordance with Section 29 of the Uganda Wildlife Act.

“Permits to export wildlife products are not issued by UWA; it is the mandate of the ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities. UWA’s role is only advisory,” Gessa said.

The said export, Gessa said, was carried out before the Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) changed the pangolin’s classification from CITES Appendix II, which allowed regulated trade.

“Lifting of all pangolin species to Appendix I came in January 2017 after the CITES conference of parties in 2016 which was held in South Africa. We [UWA] particularly supported the proposal to upgrade pangolin species to Appendix I,” Gessa said.

Prior to this, Gessa explained, UWA had authorised two companies; Olsen East Africa International and Asia-Africa Pangolin Research Centre (U) Ltd to pilot a pangolin breeding project with the aim of revitalizing the animal’s population. The pangolin is one of the 54 Buganda clan totems but is also highly marketable in South East Asia and China.

IVORY TRADE

This is the second time in as many years that Museveni is ordering an investigation into UWA and their management. The first, in 2014, was related to the loss of 1,355kg of ivory from the wildlife conservation body’s custody.  While that particular investigation appeared to exonerate Seguya, Museveni wants Justice Mulyangonja to conduct another inquest into the same matter.

“Confiscated ivory in UWA stores was stolen. It was 1,300kg and was worth Shs 3bn,” Museveni stated.

According to UWA, the said ivory was lost between 1990 and 2014, and its loss was discovered by the authority’s intelligence team.

“After the intelligence unit staff discovered the irregularities in the management of the ivory at our store, we ordered an audit of the ivory stockpile, which indicated that 296 pieces of ivory could not be accounted for, and according to the records, the loss dated as far back as 1990,” Gessa said.

Following  the investigation, two UPDF officers Col Charles Tusiime and Maj John Joab Kwikiriza, who had been seconded to UWA to head the law enforcement unit, were sacked and referred to the UPDF leadership for disciplinary action. The theft was blamed on a well-organised global ivory smuggling syndicate that includes Ugandans.

In February, UWA officials arrested three West Africans with approximately one tonne of ivory that was in transit through Uganda. Two of the suspected traffickers are from Guinea-Bissau while the third is Liberian. They were arrested from a house in Najjanankumbi, in Lubaga division, Kampala.

They had cut the ivory into smaller pieces and loaded it in containers with clearance stickers of Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS), the ground and cargo handling firm at Entebbe International airport.

More than 20 customs and ENHAS employees have so far been arrested and arraigned before court in connection with ivory trafficking, UWA sources told us.

TROUBLES

Since its establishment in 2000 under the Uganda Wildlife Act, the conservation body has been the focus of investigations related to mismanagement of finances and wildlife resources.

Its troubles, according to sector players, stem from its semi-autonomous status, which allows it to be managed differently from other public service structures.

For instance, the law allows UWA to create its own sources of income, generate its own budget and expenditure priorities. At least two former bosses of the organisation were ousted amid controversy, including Moses Mapesa and Mark Kamanzi.

Seguya, whose contract expires in November, is said to blame the reports on a witch-hunt by people scheming to take up the coveted position of executive direction. He declined to be interviewed.

sadabkk@observer.ug

Comments

+1 #1 Lakwena 2017-06-02 12:40
In other words, because the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu is idle and redundant; such a directive has to be from Mr. M7

What a country!
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0 #2 Akot 2017-06-02 15:19
Lakwena, thanks!

Yet, tribes/tribal leaders still believe they mean anything in Uganda when all are squatters in museveni's country!

How can any tribal leader & subjects even go on making themselves heard defending tribal land when they are tools used to keep Ugandans tribally divided while the entire country belongs to museveni who alone decides every step to be taken?

Not 1 tribe has understood tribal lands that form museveni's tribalistic system belong to the dictator-owner of Uganda, who will soon Reform the Republic the way he wants it!

See how D.Trump went further to make it known that it's not EU that rules USA! D.Trump would never have pulled his country out of Climate pack if EU was not so power hungry & wants to not only control Europe while looting developing world of their young, EU wants USA as subordinate power it can order around!...
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0 #3 Akot 2017-06-02 15:23
...The world knows D.Trump is a man who is very very natural: has a beautifull attracftive young wife that makes other men jelous, he does not smoke, he does not drink alcohool!

This means D.Trump is more Climate friendly than any other leader today!

It's very easy for USA to make coal-charcoal... less poluting than any other country that uses it more than Americans do!

If EU diabolising D.Trump's action was honest, EU would be the first to say: we have wasted billions for years yet climate is getting worse, why?

Would Climate be difficult to tame if EU gave the right answers to developing world problems, instead of looting their young & leaving countries to dictators-elites while no one notices the old-uneducated dying in absolute poverty?

Would it be a crime for EU to help families in developing countries have cookers... so that forests are not destroyed for firewood...?
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-1 #4 Akot 2017-06-02 15:46
I do not understand why museveni has not got rid of tribal leaders he does not need any more:

- the country belongs to him,

- he alone decides on apprehending criminals & points out who these are,

- MPs wait for directive from him,

- Church leades are bought off by museveni,

- tribal leaders know they just shut up & be NOTHING or will end up like the Rwenzururu one...,

So, why is museveni still the lame duck who needs tribal leaders to keep Ugandans tribally divided, when he can be a real president without being chief tribal leader?

But EU humiliates-drives the entire world against D.Trump-Brexit when EU worships-admires museveni!

The Commonwealth MUST be revived & we need the leadership of UK & right now, it's T.May who appears to be the right person - she is not power hungry, yet needs British to give her the power so she can work officially!
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0 #5 Lysol 2017-06-03 22:59
The greed for Ivory and gold are the two main items that the regime has always been involved with by doing mercenary works in the neighboring DRC and CR, aside from the oil in the SS.

The problem though, M7 always throws his business partners under the bus when he is cornered. China should know better.
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-1 #6 Abalang 2017-06-04 20:58
A few years back, one or two Ugandan's were executed by China for drug trafficking in line with the Chinese law.

If the allegations contained in this article are true, then the culprits should be found and prosecuted in line with the Uganda law.

There should be no double standards. If Ugandans can be prosecuted and punished for crimes committed in China, then they should as well be prosecuted and punished for crimes committed in Uganda.

This also means prosecuting their Ugandan collaborators. The vocal reaction of the Ambassador of China seem suspicious. Why would you protest before an investigation is held? Is it to prevent the investigation?

If these people don't work for you, then the more diplomatic approach is to allow the investigation.

What if they are actually your diplomats using different names? I hope that Uganda's foreign affairs ministry become a roadblock to this investigation.
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