The conviction rate for wildlife crimes in Kenya has risen to 91 percent from 44 percent in 2013—according to the Office of Director of Public Prosecution—signaling a significant achievement in the war against poaching for government agencies and other conservation bodies.
The success is attributed to close collaboration amongst state and non-state actors who are working seamlessly to ensure the judicial process, from investigation to prosecution to the adjudication of wildlife cases is successful.
Speaking during a recent wildlife prosecutorial and law enforcement training organized by AWF, WildlifeDirect, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and the Office of Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) in Tsavo Conservation Area, Vincent Monda, from the ODDP in Kilifi said the high conviction rates signal a new dawn and in the prosecution of wildlife crimes in the country.
“We are closely working together in ensuring the entire process of investigation to prosecution is handled professionally by the time we are presenting the cases to the court,” said Vincent.
The new approach marks a radical change from the past where the police acted as both the investigators and prosecutors. The state agencies have now adopted an information-sharing model that encourages and enables regular consultation on case profiles, evidence collected and other vital issues relating to cases. For every wildlife crime, the investigator and prosecutor collaborate to build up a case, addressing all legal flaws, structural weaknesses, and defectives charges.
“The roles of investigators and prosecutors are seamlessly entwined to ensure the judicial process is successful,” stated Didi Wamukoya, AWF's Wildlife Law Enforcement Manager.
Currently, legal experts from ODPP are largely responsible for prosecuting roles while KWS and the police handle the investigations.
Data on the prosecution of wildlife cases in 2016 shows a rise in strong convictions. Wildlife Direct carried out an analysis of wildlife cases in Tsavo Ecosystem in 2016. A total of 283 cases involving 610 suspects were reviewed, 196 suspects convicted with only 27 being acquitted. The rest of the cases were either withdrawn or discharged.
During the training, AWF donated six scene-of-crime processing kits worth half a million shillings to KWS. The kits were part of a wildlife law enforcement project funded by Batten Foundation, Don Daniels family, and AWF’s Urgent Response Fund.
Boosting war against poaching
East Africa is a wildlife crime hot spot, acting both as a source and transit route for illegal wildlife products and therefore it is critical to ensure that the law enforcement agencies are informed on emerging trends in wildlife crimes.
Since 2015, AWF has worked with KWS, Kenyan police, and ODDP, training the law enforcers and prosecutors on various strategies for boosting the war against poaching. The training focuses on emerging investigative techniques, preservation of evidence, crime scene handling and the judicial process.
Working with various partners, AWF has also conducted wildlife judicial and prosecutorial assistance training in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania with two regional training held in eastern Africa and southern Africa, with an aim of enhancing skills in detecting, handling and adjudicating over wildlife cases and strengthening the judicial, prosecutorial, and investigative sectors in the fight against wildlife crime.
Grace Wairima Ndungu is AWF's Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer. In this role, she supports the implementation of internal and external communications strategies and helps strategize on ways to promote AWF’s media and advocacy activities.
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