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5 years in jail for armed ivory traffickers

Four men who were last week arrested with 16kg of Ivory and an AK47 Rifle and 31 rounds of ammunition in Gulu have been tried, convicted and sentenced by Buganda Road Court. The head of the ring, Nyeko Solomon, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, meanwhile Kinyera Samuel, Kibwola Stewart and Ojok Lenox Stephen were all sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

The case of Uganda versus Nyeko Solomon and 3 others arrested with 2 pieces of ivory, 2 pieces of hippo teeth and an AK 47 riffle plus 31 rounds of ammunition came up for plea on 29 March 2017. They were charged with four counts, 2 counts of illegal possession of ivory and hippo teeth, illegal possession of a firearm and 31 rounds of ammunition. Nyeko Solomon pleaded guilty on all four counts, but his accomplices. Kinyera Samuel, Kibwola Stewart and Ojok Lenox Stephen pleaded guilty only counts of unlawful possession of ivory and hippo teeth. n. Buganda Road Court sentenced Nyeko Solomon to two years imprisonment without fine for the charge of Unlawful possession of a firearm and 31 rounds of ammunition and on counts of unlawful possession of ivory and hippo teeth he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment without fine, making the complete sentence 5 years in jail. The other three traffickers, Kinyera Samuel, Kibwola Stewart and Ojok Lenox Stephen were all sentenced to 18 months imprisonment without fine on counts of unlawful possession of ivory and hippo teeth. The matter has now been adjourned to 18 April for hearing against Kinyera Samuel, Kibwola Stewart and Ojok Lenox Stephen on counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and 31 rounds of ammunition.

The traffickers were arrested on 17 March in a joint operation of EAGLE Uganda and police and serious security risk was dodged. Nyeko Solomon concealed in the sponge of the sit of his bike an AK47 assault rifle with a bullet already loaded in the chamber, ready to shoot. “The trafficker, reportedly a former LRA rebel, came to the deal ready to quickly use the semi-automatic weapon against anyone coming to arrest him,” Vincent Opyene, the director of NRCN and EAGLE Uganda said. “The team did not underestimate threats, endured police surveillance beforehand and put strong emphasis on swift and strong action. His rigor in operations may have saved lives.”

African Elephants are still in decline due to high levels of poaching. Steady increase in the levels of illegal killing of elephants witnessed since 2006, and peaking in 2011, has been halted and stabilised but at levels that remain unacceptably high overall. Despite the slight decline and stabilisation recorded since 2011, estimated poaching rates overall remain higher than the normal growth rate of elephant populations, or above the sustainability threshold, meaning the elephant population overall is likely to have continued to decline in 2015. About 30,000 elephants are killed every year in Africa, which means 1 elephant every 15 minutes. Although elephant’s population in Uganda has increased by to more than 5,000 individuals, Uganda remains one of the main hubs of ivory trafficking. The contraband seized is brought mostly from Tanzania and Congo.

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