Mainstream media like Reuters are reporting good news that Cameroon court has just sentenced a poacher to five years in jail and fined him equivalent of several years of wages for killing eight elephants Local villagers informed the government officials and park guards who caught a young man, Job Akah, 33, with nine elephant tusks and eight tails, fire arms and ammunition in a remote village near the Korup National Park on Cameroons eastern border with Nigeria.
A heavy sentence was passed to deter others. Akah pleaded guilty and will serve his sentence, but something is nagging me. Has justice really been served or are we brushing something really important under the carpet here because it’s easy to do so?
My question is this.. Is Akah’s sentence really justice? Is he really the bad guy? Why would a 33 year old be risking five years of his life and all that money….there’s a slim chance that he’ll survive that ordeal. Even if he does, will he be reformed?
I have been so sad reading all the blog reactions to the story calling this poacher a scumbag, hoping he will rot in jail and that he should even be killed on Care2 website here.
It’s hard to see things from the outside for many people, but having met poachers, I can’t help feeling mad that things are so unfair when it comes to our justice system. Yes he is guilty of killing the elephants and he said so. But think about it, there is almost no way that this guy was acting alone, the story does not give any other clues.
I for one need three simple answers.
- Who really is driving the ivory trade in Cameroon? This poacher? Please!
- Who gave him the guns and ammo? He’s a poor 33 year old….probably one of an army of poachers under someones employment.
- Who ordered the ivory? Think about it, he is not going to make chopsticks and eat fried rice, he doesn’t need any trinkets, carvings or ivory jewelry….who is ordering this stuff?
We should be asking who should really be on the docks, in shackles, paying fines, doing time,….not this guy, he’s seeking out a living in a poverty stricken country. Yes he’s wrong, but someone else will continue because we are not addressing the real issue here.
Ofir Drori, director of the Last Great Apes Organisation Cameroon (LAGA) is aware that the trade ivory has flourished in Cameroon in recent years due to the corruption and complicity of some local government officials. This article shows that the corruption is up to the level of the guy who dispenses justice, the police chief!
So, on a personal level I’m not celebrating Akah’s arrest and conviction, I’m weeping for him, because I suspect that those who were involved in arrested him and laying down his sentence, may know better who really should be paying the price for this crime. This system of justice works well for those in the end markets, dealers, traders… especially those from foreign countries.
The recent CITES decision to allow ivory trade auctions has as Richard Leakey says in his latest blog post, “done conservation a great disservice”. Once again ivory prices are rising, and consequently elephants in countries where enforcement is weak like Congo, Cameroon, Kenya and Zimbabwe are up for grabs.
I understand every ones anger every time an elephant dies but maybe I’m getting soft, but I don’t for a second believe that locking up Akah is not going to save a single elephant. I’d appreciate hearing other more balanced views on western blogs especially.
Well, those are my early morning angry thoughts on an issue that really touches a nerve with me..- what do you think about this conviction, has justice been served in this case?