Dar faces sanctions over poaching spree

Tuesday February 04 2014

Ivory seized from smugglers is displayed in Dar es Salaam. Photo/FILE

The United Nations could slap sanctions on Tanzania and other African countries for failing to end poaching, which is threatening to wipe out elephants and rhinos.

Tanzania could be targeted because it is currently considered a transit country in ivory smuggling, according to reports from the UN. Others countries considered to be transit routes include Kenya, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The UN and conservationists want a two-pronged approach, targeting both producers of ivory in Africa – including countries such as Gabon, Kenya, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and Uganda – and consumer countries such as China and Thailand.

READ: EA countries lead in illicit ivory trade

“It’s a simmering issue,” said a UN diplomat, adding that two international conferences to address the subject were held in Botswana and France in December.

The UN Security Council has already moved to impose sanctions on ivory hunters and traffickers in the DRC and CAR.


Two resolutions adopted by the council last week stated that the trade in illegal wildlife was fuelling conflicts in the region and bankrolling organised crime.

Under the resolutions, the council can impose sanctions, such as freezing assets or restricting travel, on any individual found to be involved in wildlife trafficking.

Producers of ivory

The resolutions were primarily designed to target a number of armed rebel groups operating in eastern DRC.

But some UN members and conservationists urged the council at its meeting last week to impose trade sanctions on countries that have failed to stop ivory trafficking.

Some observers say Tanzania is both a transit country and producer of ivory.

Poaching has reached alarming levels in the country.

Alarmed at the decline, the government last year launched Operesheni Tokomeza (operation eradicate) that was aimed at stamping out poaching in national parks, game reserves and other protected areas.

The operation was, however, suspended in November amid claims of widespread human rights abuses, leading to the removal of four Cabinet ministers.

The government said Monday that it would establish an anti-poaching unit as part of efforts to protect wildlife.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion in Dar es Salaam, Natural Resources and Tourism minister Lazaro Nyalandu said the plan would be jointly implemented with donors and coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme.

“The involvement of donors is meant to ensure transparency and efficiency,” Mr Nyalandu said, adding that the development partners would fund the unit during the first four years of its existence.