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Uganda arrests two Vietnamese suspected of ivory smuggling2 minutes read

The illegal ivory trade is the third most profitable form of trafficking after narcotics and weapons.

Kathleen Ndongmo

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Authorities say they have discovered over 700 pieces of ivory and hundreds of pangolin scales inside hollowed out logs in the Uganda’s capital Kampala. Two Vietnamese men were detained suspected of smuggling.

The illegal cargo was discovered after officers at the Ugandan tax authority (URA) scanned three 20-foot (six-metre) containers carrying timber logs which had crossed the border from South Sudan.

After growing suspicious, a team secretly tailed the cargo to a warehouse in Kampala and made the bust.

“Logs were hollowed out and filled with ivory and pangolin scales then resealed with tons of melted wax to disguise the contraband,” URA spokesman Vincent Seruma said.

“In a single container there were more than 700 pieces of ivory and more than 200 pangolin scales but we expect to recover thousands of scales,” he added. 

The full value of the cargo has yet to be established but the agency estimated at least 325 elephants would have been killed to acquire the ivory.

Seruma said the traffickers were part of a “very dangerous racket” which takes advantage of conflicts in eastern and central Africa to poach endangered species.

The URA said it believed the ivory and pangolin scales had been packed at a smuggling centre in Democratic Republic of Congo.

“These huge consignments often come from DRC or Central African Republic taking advantage of the lawlessness there. The level of smuggling through Uganda is high,” Seruma said.

The URA tweeted that the two men arrested will be charged with failing to declare prohibited items and concealment of goods.

“We believe they planned to bribe their way to their final destination so we are investigating the shipping agent and other contractors,” the agency said.

The illegal ivory trade is the third most profitable form of trafficking after narcotics and weapons. 

Traffic is driven by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine and ornamentation.

Poaching has seen the elephant population fall by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

The little-known pangolin is the world’s most trafficked and poached mammal because of the demand for its meat and scales.

The scales are often used in traditional Chinese medicine and its meat is eaten in several countries in Asia and Africa.

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Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality

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Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.

Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.

Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

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Business rescue team rule out mid-June return for SAA flights

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South African Airways business rescue practitioners have rejected an “unvetted” statement released by the state-owned airline indicating plans to resume domestic flights from mid-June.

The national carrier had on Tuesday, announced that its planes will be back in the skies between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

But Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, the business rescue administrators, say the airline had breached communications protocol by issuing a statement which “created an unfair expectation on our relevant stakeholders, including SAA’s customers, as well as employees who are on unpaid absence as a result of the travel ban which led to the halting of the company’s operations, compounding its financial distress.”

SAA’s media statement had gone out without the approval of the practitioners as demanded by the business rescue procedure.

With the government of South Africa announcing that the country will enter into lockdown alert level 3 from June 1, domestic air travel will be permitted but only for business purposes.

The business rescue practitioners said SAA planes will remain grounded until a better understanding of what the level 3 regulations entail.

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Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement

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Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.

The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.

“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.

AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.

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