By Benjamin Jumbe
Kampala – Cabinet has approved amendments to the Wildlife Act and toughened
the penalties against wildlife crimes.
The review of the Uganda Wildlife Act 1996, seeks to address emerging
challenges in conservation, including poaching, illicit trans-boundary
wildlife trade and increasing human wildlife conflicts.
The acting commissioner of conservation in the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife
and Antiquities, Dr Akankwasah Barirega, said the proposed law spells out a
life sentence for a person convicted of wildlife crimes such as poaching and
illegal wildlife trade.
“Cabinet already approved the Uganda Wildlife Bill 2015 and, among other
things, the law is addressing is the issue of illegal wildlife trade and the
penalties that come along with the offenders,” Dr Akankwasa said.
“If Parliament agrees with what Cabinet has already approved, wildlife
criminals will face a maximum sentence of life in prison,” Dr Akankwasah
He said Cabinet approved the Bill towards the end of last year, noting that
what remains is its gazetting by the Ugandan Printing and Publication
Corporation before it can be tabled before Parliament.
He added that once finally tabled, this legislation, which will repeal the
current Wildlife Act cap 200, is to be a game changer in the fight against
wildlife crime by making the penalties more deterrent.
According to Dr Akankwasah, currently, the biggest sanction or penalty is
seven years of imprisonment and since a judge has the discretion to set the
sentence, sometimes the offenders are not given the maximum sentence but
rather asked to pay a small fines or three months in jail and are willing to
pay and be released.
The new piece of legislation also provides for compensation for people
affected by stray animals from protected areas.
In late December last year, the Acholi paramount chief, Rwot David Onen
Acana II threatened to mobilise his subjects to kill all elephants that
stray from Murchison Falls and Kidepo national parks and destroy crops in
Acholi sub-region, a plan that has attracted protests from the Uganda