KAMPALA, Mar 6 – Uganda’s president has said armed poachers operating in national parks should be shot on sight because of the damage they could inflict on tourism to the central African nation, according to his spokesman.
Yoweri Museveni made the comments during a visit to Kidepo National Park, a remote savannah situated on the border with conflict-hit South Sudan and restive northern Kenya — areas that are both awash with weapons.
“Those with guns who cross to disturb, you should shoot them,” the president was quoted as telling border security guards.
The president’s spokesman, Tamale Mirudi, confirmed the comments, saying Museveni was “just stressing the importance of security in the national park, preservation of animals and the safety of the tourists.”
“You can cripple tourism for years when one European is killed in a national park,” he said.
“The president is not saying that all the poachers should be killed on site. What the president is saying is stressing the importance of security in national parks, even if that requires shooting them on site,” he added.
Tourism accounts for 3.7 percent of the country’s GDP, according to World Bank figures, although the sector is seen as ripe for potential growth as would-be visitors look further afield from the more traditional and crowded safari destinations in Kenya or Tanzania.
Museveni is not the first leader in the region to call for a no-nonsense crackdown on poaching.
Last year, police and wildlife officers in Tanzania started a crackdown on suspected poachers amid a surge of killings of elephant and rhino in the east African nation, operating under what was reported to be a government-ordered shoot-to-kill policy and making sweeping arrests.
But members of the security forces taking part were accused of numerous killings, incidents of torture and rapes, leading to the operation being halted and the sacking of four top government ministers.
Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years, driven by demand from Asia and the Middle East for rhino horns and ivory.