Gabon Initiatives

Fabrice Mikomba,
August 4, 2018

LIBREVILLE: After several months of strikes, provincial courts have handed
down verdicts for numerous cases of poaching and trafficking in trophies of
protected species.

While it can be noted that the maximum penalty of six months has been
imposed in many cases, it is equally regrettable that several decisions
have fallen short of the expectations of environmentalists.

It should be noted that the penalties provided for in the Forest Code are
among the lowest on the continent.

For example, neighboring Congo provides for maximum sentences of 5 years in
prison; Cameroon of 3 years; Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger from 5 to 10


Disappointment is the feeling that animated the NGOs and the lawyers of the
civil part at the exit of certain deliberative hearings which took place in
the provincial courts during the month of July, essentially.

It was in Oyem that the disappointment was real. Stricter decisions were
made in Makokou, Franceville, Koulamoutou, and Tchibanga.

Finally, in Mouila, the sole decision does not provide much of a deterrent,
as is, apparently, often the case.

Regarding the Oyem court, Nzamba Serge, arrested on April 11 by the
Mitzic’s brigade center agents with two ivory tusks weighing 22.3 kg of
ivory was found not guilty of the marketing offense.

Like him, the Sissoko Biram-Ciss? Mamadou duo who held 25 kg of ivory at
the time of arrest on 11 May 2018, and Jean-Francois Ekazama caught with
four ivory tusks on 5 June 2018?were all found not guilty of the marketing

Recognized as guilty of the offenses of detention and transportation, their
fate was rather mild; they were sentenced to three months in prison.

As soon as they are out again and are not inclined to regret their actions,
there is a risk that these poachers and traffickers will return to their
activity of slaughtering and marketing protected species.

This is a disappointment, therefore, for the administration of Water and
Forests, which has often and almost always obtained justice in the
conviction of poachers and traffickers on the basis of the recognition of
the offense of commercialization.

Moreover, the concerned were arrested red-handed while they were busy
finalizing a transaction. Why not consider illegal marketing when it is the
case in the rest of the country and it was always the case in Oyem in
identical cases?

Another disappointment to note, which reinforces the idea that we must
harden the sentence for wildlife offenders, is  the case of Nouhou Adamou.

Arrested on February 15, 2018, with his accomplices Keita Oumar, Issouma
Ila, and Keita Ousmane, Nouhou Adamou fell that day for a second time into
the nets of the judicial police. He was therefore a recidivist against whom
the sentence could have been heavy.

And he is a Water and Forests officer, who uses his function to organize
ivory trafficking, which is supposed to be punished by the penal code. Yet
the man got only six months in prison.

This, in spite of his recidivism, also in spite of the amount of ivory
seized, that is to say 13 tusks and 32 pieces of the precious product. On
the verge of being released (in August), Nouhou Adamou will be able to
return to his trafficking as he has already done after being sentenced to
six months in 2016.

Worse, he may still be maintained as an agent of Water and Forests as the
law provides for the removal of agents sentenced to six months or more. Why
was this not the case in 2016 and will it be the case now?

In the same matter, Issouma Ila and Keita Ousmane were given the benefit of
the doubt and released. The Libreville court therefore found that Nouhou
Adamou’s two accomplices were not clearly involved in the transaction that
led them all to jail.

The question now is: What must be done? The answer probably lies in the
revision of the Forest Code and its strict application.

It may be necessary for the articles on recidivism and the maximum sentence
to be adjusted to cultural, social and economic realities and the
international context, and that they take measure of the environmental and
economic damages of poaching and trafficking in protected species.

Never mind that the strict application of the law is the bedrock of good