In the week since we heard what has definitively been the most bizarre announcement of 2014 – that the Honorable Judge Wilson Masalu Musene ordered the release of 832 pieces of raw ivory be returned to the “owner” a Mr Emile Ogane – a lot has happened, and a lot has not happened!
The lot that has happened includes outcry and international recognition of the issue, a deeper understanding of the court case itself, the reasons that underpinned the ruling by Judge Musene and a whole lot of activity galvanised by local and international conservationists and enforcement bodies.
As we mentioned in our previous blog post, the moment we heard of this decision, together with several partners we started trying to figure out and understand how such a judgement could have been passed. We shared with you the stories that emerged from this research verified and unverified. Today we are able to confirm the following after having personally read the 11 page ruling from the High Court.
- Mr Emille Ogane claims that he has a license to trade and transport 832 pieces of ivory weight 2.9 tons from the DRC government. He was given the authority to collect this ivory from culled and dead elephants in and around the National Parks of DRC.
- Mr Emille Ogane engaged a Kenyan national Mr Owino Odhiambo to transport the ivory from Goma, DRC to Mombasa where Mr Odhiambo’s company Silver Line Shipping would send it onward to China and UAE.
- The ruling was made in favour of Mr Emille Ogane because according to the judge and the appellants the URA (respondents in the case) were unable to prove that the consignment had entered Uganda illegally despite it being disguised as coffee and secondly that goods in transit cannot be impounded by the URA or UWA.
- The release order is comprehensive in that neither the URA nor any other law enforcement agency in Uganda would be able to re-impound the ivory after its release on any grounds
- Neither Mr Owino Odhiambo or Mr Emille Ogane have appeared in court and no one is privy to their whereabouts.
- The URA have filed a notice of appeal and also a stay of execution on the above order until the appeal is heard.
- The stay of execution has been granted and the ivory will not go anywhere until the appeal is heard.
The most exciting thing of all is the issuance of arrest warrants for Mr Emille Ogane and Mr Owino Odhiambo by Ugandan Police which have also been given to Interpol. These two suspected smugglers are clearly on the run and may lead us to some big fish if they aren’t big fish themselves!
As for what has not happened – well a surprising lack of action from CITES and Government of Kenya.. Why CITES? Well CITES is supposed to issue a permit for any transport of ivory. According to their website, DRC has a ZERO quota for export of ivory so this act is in clear violation of that – unless CITES granted a permit. Could that even be true?
And Government of Kenya – well yes shouldn’t our government be saying something considering that not only is a Kenyan national is involved and named in this illicit consignment but also because this consigment was destined for our borders.
Furthermore, our sources in Uganda are concerned that the appeal may not pass muster and the second judge may throw it out and allow the release of ivory. We are slightly more optimistic than our sources though given Interpol’s current involvement but we cannot rest easy – we must continue to follow this case diligently and stay focused on the optimal outcome – that this ivory be burnt and destroyed before it is ever put in the hands of any other individual. So with that – we encourage you to please sign and share this petition urging the Ugandan Government to burn the ivory instead of returning it to a suspected criminal!
That’s all we have for now folks – but we will continue to bring you all the information we can…so watch this space!