On October, 3, 2019, Uganda Wildlife Authority officers following an intelligence tip off by a source, rushed to Kasese to intercept a wildlife trafficker operating between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On reaching Kasese, the UWA officers were astonished to hear that it was a cartel involved in the poaching, selling, buying and trafficking business of prohibited endangered wildlife species
They were told by the contact that one Samuel Kibuuka had moved 40 kilograms of ivory to Kyegegwa district and was willing to sell it and business could only be conducted in Kyegegwa town.
The UWA officers therefore laid a trap after disguising as potential buyers as one of the sources was in contact with the seller of the ivory.
After reporting their presence at Kikandwa police post, the officers went for the covert operation and were able to meet Kibuuka who was in company of one Suleiman Ndaisanga and the two were in possession of an elephant tusk that they were ready to sell.
Deal gone bad
However, the deal went bad as the buyers now identified themselves as UWA officers and tried to arrest the two sellers of the precious wildlife prize.
“Whereas Ndaisanga was handcuffed and pushed into the car, Kibuuka resisted and in the resultant scuffle, an unidentified person shot at the UWA officers,” a source told the Nile Post.
Following the scuffle, everyone including the source, sellers and buyers fled the scene in disarray to save their lives from the unknown source of bullets.
By the look of things, the sellers of the ivory had got a second thought about the buyers and had planted a gunner nearby to rescue them in case things didn’t go according to plan.
This is what exactly happened.
However, two UWA officers were able to dash into their vehicle upon hearing the gun shots and sought for reinforcement from Kikandwa police post and in a few minutes a number of police officers rushed to the scene.
The reinforcement was able to recover a UWA officer who had taken cover in a nearby bush but the search for their source who had brokered the deal proved futile.
Sophisticated technology deployed
Despite the deal going bad, UWA officers took home some positives on which they built to help them track the cartel members.
Following the incident, UWA officers reported the matter at Kassanda police station and a file was opened of unlawful possession of protected wildlife species by the cartel.
The office in charge of the Crime Investigations Division at the police station led a team to the scene and collected a number of exhibits including blood samples and cartridges.
The motor vehicle in which the UWA officers were travelling that had been damaged by gun shots was also examined and a projectile from the back sit was recovered.
Meanwhile, police and UWA visited the home of Samuel Kibuuka who was now on the run and recovered a number of items including trophies of various wildlife species and two guns.
The police’s Directorate of Crime Intelligence continued collecting intelligence in regards the cartel and it was later agreed that a joint operation be carried out involving Police, UPDF and Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Consequently, a joint operation was carried out in the districts of Kassanda, Mubende, Kakumiro, Kibale, Kikuube, Hoima, Kiboga, Masindi and Kyankwanzi where the cartel had been operating and resulted into the arrest of several suspects including Samuel Kibuuka, Suleiman Ndaisanga, Ssenkusu Badru Kiwotoka, Hannington Kiyingi, Livingston Kabuuza, Deo Katushabe Akiiki, William Bikamanyiire ,Asanasio Kayizzi and Mulwana whereas efforts to track down other members are still ongoing.
The group was also found with a number of hunting gears that they always used in poaching.
The operation was able to discover that Kibuuka was the leader of the highly organized cartel and could hire it out to members for use.
Security was also able to find out that after the botched operation to arrest two members of the cartel in 2019, they were shot at by one Joshua Sserunkuuma and later the UWA source, one Edward Ssekyanzi who had gone missing since then was later killed by the group.
He was shot dead on the cartel leader’s orders, body packed into a sack, carried on a motorcycle and later buried in a pit at Namwasa forest plantation.
During the operation, a total of 11 guns that the cartel has been using were recovered.
“We are going to arraign them in court and charge them with illegal possession of guns, poaching and murder of Ssekyanzi,” UWA communications officer, Bashir Hangi said.
Quoting the new Wildlife Act 2019, Hangi said the suspect stand no chance but also warned any other person who would have intensions of engaging in poaching.
“If found guilty, they will have to pay a shs20 billion fine or face life imprisonment,” he said.
According to the new law, any person convicted is liable to maximum fine of Shs20 billion or life imprisonment, or both for an offence related to a wildlife species classified as extinct in the wild, critically endangered.
The species classified as extinct in the wild include the roan antelope, lion, hunting dog, spotted and stripped hyena, greater and lesser kudu, Ssese Island Sitatunga, Cheetah, African elephant, Delany’s mouse, and endangered species such as impala, Rwenzori duiker, Rothschild’s giraffe, mountain gorilla and the common chimpanzee.
The law also emphasizes that person who without a permit takes, hunts, molests or reduces into possession protected specimen or is found with, sells, buys, transfers or accepts transfer of protected specimen, commits an offence and shall on conviction, be liable to a maximum fine of Shs200 million or to a jail term or both.
The law also stipulates that a first-time offender should be fined to a tune Shs7 million or to a term of imprisonment, not exceeding 10 years, or both.