The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 (as amended) under National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy XIII, obligates the State to protect important natural resources, including land, water, wetlands, minerals, oil, fauna and flora on behalf of the people of Uganda.
Article 237(2) of the same Constitution provided that Government as determined by Parliament by law, shall hold in trust for the people and protect natural lakes, rivers, wetlands, forest reserves, game reserves, national parks and any land to be reserved for ecological and touristic purposes for the common good of citizens.
Parliament enacted Uganda Wildlife Statute (Now codified as Cap 200 under laws of Uganda) in 1996. Since that time, several legislations and policies that relate to wildlife conservation have come into being including the Oil and Gas Policy and laws, the Land Use Policy and Laws, the National Vision 2040, the National Development Plan among others.
The National Development Plan under section 5.3.3 (279) strategy 2, Intervention provides for revision of the Uganda Wildlife Act to refocus wildlife conservation to respond to current realities in the sector.
The Oil and Gas Policy, 2008 under section 184.108.40.206 (g) requires the Ministry responsible for tourism and wildlife to harmonize tourism and wildlife Policies with Oil and Gas Policy. Section 186 of the Petroleum (exploration, Development and Production) Act of 2013 provides for supremacy of that Act over other relevant laws. This calls for harmonization of that Act with Uganda Wildlife Act as indeed oil and gas activities are not envisioned as permissible in Protected Areas under the Wildlife Act.
The Land Use Policy of 2007 under section 3(15) (a) calls for review and updating of wildlife conservation policies and laws to ensure guided land utilization especially of Protected Areas. Section 3(17) (a) of the same land use policy calls for effective management of wildlife outside Protected Areas. The principles proposed for amendment of Uganda Wildlife Act Addresses all these concerns.
In addition, since the enactment of the Act, several emerging issues that affect wildlife conservation have come up including the exploration and yet to start production activities, escalating human wildlife conflicts, escalating levels of illicit wildlife trade and trafficking, institutional changes among other. This necessitates review of Uganda Wildlife Act not only to align it other National Laws and Policies but also addressing critical emerging issues.
The lapse of time has rendered the offences and penalties under the Wildlife Act ineffective; especially in dealing with illicit wildlife trade, trafficking and poaching among other wildlife related crimes. This necessitates a review to update the offences and penalties to deal with the globally re-merging illicit wildlife trafficking.
Lessons learnt from 17 years of implementation of the Act point to the need for a new approach to conservation of wildlife through effectively mitigating human wildlife conflicts, promoting sustainable utilization of wildlife for National Economic Development, increasing wildlife management efficiency and effectiveness, securing the wildlife conservation in Uganda. Review of the Wildlife Act to clearly redirect the sector in that direction will result enhanced conservation of Uganda’s wildlife heritage ad associated tourism development in Uganda.