WEST NILE. Police in West Nile are holding five men waylaid in two separate incidents in Nebbi and Arua district while trying to sell ivory worth Shs22 million.
In Arua two men who were arrested with 35.2 kilogrammes of elephant ivory, worth Shs14 million, while across the border in Nebbi, Police are holding three men who were arrested with 18.4 kilograms of ivory, worth Shs7 million.
The two Arua suspects, a 57-year-old muazin (a person who calls others for prayers in a mosque), and 44-year-old watchman at the same mosque, were arrested by Police Flying Squad with help from the Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN). The two suspects were arrested during a transaction at their office adjacent Muktal Mosque.
The suspects came along with 35.2 kilogrammes of ivory, worth Shs14 million, to the would-be buyers. However, NRCN had been tipped of the transaction and was lurking in the vicinity waiting to swoop down on the suspects, who are currently being held at Arua Central Police Station where case file has been opened.
In Nebbi, the three suspects are a38-year-old farmer from Oryang Village, a 26-year-old farmer from Omayokome Village, and a 24-year-old student. They were arrested by Police Flying Squad and are currently being detained at Nebbi Central Police Station.
Maureen Ninsiima, legal officer of NRCN, said the suspects will be charged with unlawful possession of elephant tasks contrary to Sections 30 and 75 (b) of Uganda Wildlife Act.
The law provides for the offence of unlawful possession of protected species and the punishment is not more than five years imprisonment and a fine not less than the value of the wildlife product involved.
Ivory remains a major source of funding for rebels and terrorists all over Africa, from Somalia to the central and West African countries. .
According to the West Nile Regional Police Commander, Ibrahim Saiga, poaching is one of the most rampant crimes in the region. He appealed to the residents to desist from the act, saying Police will always be on the look out for culprits poaching or dealing in wildlife products.
According to the OC Station and Operations at Nebbi Central Police Station, Bosco Mwebesa , most of the ivory and wildlife trophies being traded in the district are brought in from DR Congo.
Some 30,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks, mainly to satisfy demand in the Asian market for products coveted as a traditional medicine or as status symbols.
Uganda is a key transit country for the illegal trade, especially from DR Congo’s huge forests.