A senior Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) commander at the rank of major, another one at the rank of corporal along with three civilians have been charged with crimes related to illegal trafficking of ivory.
Major Allen Rutagira and Corporal Collins Kamugisha, were on Monday April 4, charged with three counts relating to illegal possession of 12 pieces of ivory at the Buganda road Chief Magistrates Court of Kampala before magistrate James Ereemye.
The duo was arrested at Hotel Africana on March 24 along with four civilians. Corporal Collins Kamugish is attached to Entebbe Airport Brigade.
Uganda’s laws prohibit the hunting and trading in wildlife and wildlife products or any other activities of a like nature, which involve the utilization of wildlife and wildlife products without first obtaining a grant of a wildlife use right.
Court heard that the accused and others still at large on March 24, at Hotel Africana in Kampala, were found in unlawful possession of 12 pieces of ivory weighing 19.015kgs, and valued at Ush129.3m.
According to the prosecution led by the resident state attorney, Jonathan Muwaganya, all the accused conspired to commit the crime. Others facing the same charges with the army officers are Simon Mbonye, 53 a resident of Rusisiro village, Mabungo parish in Kisoro district, Alex Sande, 45, a resident of Nyaburemera in Kiggundu sub-county Kisoro district and Silva Kiiza 54, a peasant and resident of Rutokye Bitereko in Mitooma district.
Kamugisha and Rutagira through their lawyer Anthony Wameli applied for bail and presented two and three sureties respectively. The prosecutor objected to the application, stating that the sureties for Kamugisha were not substantial civilians who might not have the capacity to compel him to report to court in case he absconded.
In his ruling Ereemye granted Kamugisha cash bail of Ushs 2m and bonded his three sureties at Ushs 10m not cash. But the judge remanded Rutagira after discovering that the introductory letters and the national identity cards of his sureties bore inconsistencies.
The other trio had no lawyers to represent them but tried to apply for bail which the magistrate deferred due to lack of documentation introducing their sureties, they were all remanded until the next hearing of the case.