Greater Virunga Collaboration To Issue Wildlife Crime Lists

1707 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC) has started work on a programme that will eliminate wildlife crime in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda by 2024.

The Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC) has started work on a programme that will eliminate wildlife crime in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda by 2024.
 
Under the framework, the collaboration aims to engage different interest groups in wildlife management. During a two-day conference on security and law enforcement held at Mosa Courts in Kampala this week, the parties agreed to speed up the process of signing a treaty that will make the three governments to legalise the status of the collaboration, start funding its activities and provide intelligence and information sharing.
 
The team also resolved to engage the police, army and private sector to ensure that the region is free of wildlife crime by 2024.
 
GVTC is a Mechanism for strategic, transboundary, collaborative management of the Greater Virunga Landscape. It was set up in 1991, starting with ranger collaboration to protect mountain gorillas in Mgahinga, Bwindi, Virunga and Volcanoes national parks.
 
James Byamukama, the Programmes Manager at GVTC, says the greater Virunga has had to battle a string of wildlife crimes in the past. He says while the conservationists are aware of the crimes, the other groups like immigration officials and the revenue authorities are not aware of the crimes. He says many of such people allow those engaging in wildlife crime to walk away with the loot. He also cites the weak laws in the countries that allow smuggling to proliferate.
 
Byamukama says as a result, the collaboration is going to publish a list of all wildlife crimes and distribute them to all entry points. He says all the customs officials, revenue authority officials, police and army will be trained in detecting such crimes. The programmes manager says through this, they may be able to achieve their targets of combating wildlife crimes in the region.
 
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Byamukama says many times offenders have had to get away with minor fines yet the magnitude of the crime committed is big. He attributes this to the week laws and poor knowledge of judicial officers in wildlife crime management. He says efforts are being made to engage the judiciary in understanding the nature of the crimes committed and the possible punishment.
 
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Ghizler Sumbo Jumbo, the chief warden of Virunga National Park in the DRC, says the collaboration will offer them a better chance to deal with the issues of insecurity. He says Congo has been battling a string of insurgencies for years and when such arrangements come into effect, they will help to root out such crimes. Jumbo says they will work to ensure that the resolutions agreed upon are implemented.
 
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Propser Weinjeri, the Manager of Volcano Game Park in Rwanda, says the wildlife crime has had a big impact on the conservation efforts in the region. He says as the chairperson of the security and law enforcement committee, he will work with his team to ensure that the Vision 2024 of wildlife crime free Greater Virunga is achieved.
 
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Dr. Andrew Seguya, the Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), says the vision is a daunting task for the committee. He says it will need a concerted effort to fight the wildlife crime in the Greater Virunga. He has challenged the committee and the conservationists not to leave the local community out of the struggle. He says the local community members have all the information on wildlife crime.
 
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John Ngarambe, the First Secretary at Rwanda High Commission to Uganda, says his government is committed to supporting the efforts of the conservationists. He says Rwanda has already signed an agreement with GVTC to accommodate the headquarters of the organization.
 
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Ngarambe says all the parties must join hand to combat the crime.
 
Currently, the collaboration is working on a draft treaty which will be signed by the presidents of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. The treaty will give legal mandate for the collaboration to operate and attract funding from the governments.