By Christopher Bendana
Felix Byamukama, the man accused by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for killing Rafiki, the silverback of Nkuringo Gorilla group, and other wildlife in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) will spend 11 years in jail for his action.
A statement released by the UWA says Julius Borere, the Chief Magistrate, Kabale sentenced Byamukama after he pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal entry into a protected area, killing a gorilla and a duiker.
Borere sentenced him to 5, 6, and 5 years respectively to be served concurrently.
In a second case file, Byamukama pleaded guilty to counts of killing a bush pig, being in possession of bush pig and duiker meat for which he was sentenced to 5 years on each count, to run concurrently after serving the first six years on case file one. Hence, he will serve a total of 11 years in prison.
Byamukama, a resident of Murole village, Nteko Parish, Nyabwishenya Sub County, Kisoro District was arrested on June 4, 2020, following the death of Rakifi.
UWA says he was found in possession of bush pig meat and several hunting devices including a spear, rope snares, wires snares, and a dog hunting bell that were recovered from his home.
In an early press report, Byamukama said he speared Rafiki in self-defense after he charged at him though in a protected area.
Byamukama’s co-accused Evarist Bampabenda, Valence Museveni, and Yonasi Mubangizi Yonasi denied the charges and were remanded to Kisoro prisons.
Sam Mwandha, the executive director UWA welcomed the court’s decision saying that Rafiki has received justice. “We are relieved that Rafiki has received justice and this should serve as an example to other people who kill wildlife. If one person kills wildlife, we all lose, therefore we request every person to support our efforts of conserving wildlife for the present and future generations”
Mwandha praised the new law (Wildlife Act 2019) and warned those with intentions of engaging in illegal wildlife activities of the full wrath of the law.
Rafiki, the silverback of Nkuringo gorilla group was reported missing from the group on June 1, 2020, and after a search by UWA, his body was found the following day in Hakato area inside BINP.
The mountain gorillas roam BINP and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes in Rwanda National Park and Virunga National Park in the DRC. They are a major source of foreign exchange from tourism for the three countries and employ hundreds of locals as guides, porters, craft makers, and food sellers to hotel owners.