Stop dictating the agenda

30 August 2019 | Opinion

There has been a frustrating and an enduring debate on whether the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species should allow Namibia to sell its ivory stockpile worth over N$125 million and bring in much-needed revenue. The stockpile consists of tusks confiscated from poachers, and because of natural deaths. Since the ban in 1989, Namibia has only been allowed controlled ivory trade in 1999 and 2008, with CITES arguing that legalising it would be devastating for African elephants, which are the source of most of the illegally traded ivory in the world. At the recent gathering, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe proposed that they should be allowed a one-time sale of government-owned ivory stockpiles, followed by a six-year moratorium. The proposal was, however, defeated with 101 countries opposing it and 23 countries in support, with 18 abstaining. The convention also rejected a proposal to relax restrictions on white rhino hunting and exports. Namibia is not the only one fighting for this. Neighbours such as Botswana and Zimbabwe with large populations have persistently pleaded with CITES against the downgrading of white rhinos from Appendix I, the list of species threatened with extinction, to Appendix II, a list of species with looser protections. The truth of the matter is that western animal rights groups are disregarding our conservation and socio-economic development interests, while dictating how African countries should manage their environmental affairs. This is unfair and unreasonable. A country like Namibia has a good story to tell from a conservation point of view. We are in fact the only country in the world with conservation entrenched in the constitution of the republic. On top of that, 42% of our land is under some form of conservation management, yet again signifying the genuine efforts of our nation towards environmental conservation. What more can you ask for? We agree with our regional leaders that perhaps the time has come for SADC to pull the plug and withdraw en masse from an organisation that is ostensibly dictated by largely non-state actors with no experience with, responsibility for, or ownership over wildlife resources as SADC chair President John Magufuli strongly pointed out.

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