KAMPALA- The disappearance of 1,300 kilogrammes of ivory from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) stores has pushed President Yoweri Museveni to order the Inspector General of Government (IGG0 to investigate operations of the wildlife body.
President Museveni wants the IGG to investigate Dr Andrew Sseguya, the UWA executive director and other top officials over suspected criminal conduct.
The IGG spokesperson Ms Ali Munira confirmed receiving instructions from the president to institute fresh investigations regarding the disappearance of Ivory from UWA’s strong room.
“This is a fresh investigation regarding the disappearance of the ivory and we have started the probe that will among other things find out suspected wrong doing amongst the top officials at UWA,” Ms Munira said on Wednesday.
But Dr Sseguya said he was not aware of any investigation by IGG because nobody has written to him.
“What I am aware of is that the IGG investigated us in the past and is supposed to have written to the President about the findings and I think this is what some of the media houses are writing about,” said Dr Sseguya.
Dr Sseguya maintained his innocence saying he initiated the audit after the reported missing ivory.
But Ms Munira says a letter by the president dated May 2, 2017 ordered the IGG to probe UWA on a number of issues that includes; UWA officials colluding with two diplomats at the Embassy of China in Kampala to export ivory from DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The letter states that the 1, 300 kilogrammes of ivory valued at Shs3.4 billion were seized from smugglers at Entebbe International Airport in January 2015 was part of the stock that was stolen from the UWA strong room.
“We received the letter and we are assessing the contents but some of the issues raised in the letter are old issues which we have already investigated but we are also in advanced stages to institute a team that will handle a fresh probe into the alleged missing ivory,” Ms Munira said.
She saidthey would liaise with police basically to share information and the investigation would also look into recent reports about the involvement of wildlife officers and the army in the smuggling of elephant tusks.
This is not the first time UWA is being investigated by IGG over missing Ivory. In 2014, Dr Sseguya was sent on leave to pave way for then ongoing investigations into the missing stock of ivory.
But UWA publicist, Mr Simplicious Gessa said the probe is about the “usual things” they have always answered and clarified.
“We have not got anything formal from anybody but what I know is that this same issue came up some time back and we dealt with it and the public out there should know that the seized ivory is still in our custody,” Mr Gessa said.
The United Nations in June, 2014 raised a red flag about ivory seizures in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The seizures accounted for 80 percent of what was seized around the world and argued that weak governance and poverty are to blame for the crime. A kilogramme of ivory on the black market costs $2,500 (Shs9 million) while a processed ivory bangle costs $500 (Shs1.8 million).
Ivory seized since 2015
On May 30, 2015, the Aviation Police at Entebbe International Airport intercepted 740 Kgs of ivory in transit to Singapore on Turkish Airlines.
On July 15 2015, police seized another 48 boxes of ivory en route to Singapore.
In January 2016, police seized another ivory weighing 791 kgs. In May 2017, at Najjanankumbi, off Entebbe highway, UWA and police recovered 1,000 kgs of ivory from three West Africans who were the suspected smugglers.