The Kabale Chief Magistrate’s Court on July 30, 2020 sentenced Byamukama Felix to 11 years in prison for killing Rafiki, the Silverback of the Nkuringo Gorilla group, and other wildlife in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Byamukama pleaded guilty to 3 counts that included illegal entry into the protected area as well as killing a mountain gorilla and a duiker. The Chief Magistrate, His Worship Julius 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 6 years on case file one. He will, therefore, serve a total of 11 years.
The incident was first reported on eTurboNews on June 12 as well as several international media houses causing worldwide outrage with some calling for a longer sentence.
Byamukama Felix is a resident of Murole village, Nteko Parish, Nyabwishenya Sub County, Kisoro District and was arrested on June 4, 2020 following the death of Rafiki, a Silverback of the Nkuringo group. Upon search, 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. His 3 colleagues Bampabenda Evarist, Museveni Valence, and Mubangizi Yonasi denied the charges and were remanded to Kisoro prisons.
The Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Sam Mwandha, 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,” he said. Mwandha further explained that the new law (Wildlife Act 2019) is tough and that anyone involved in illegal wildlife activities will face the wrath of the law.
On June 1, 2020, Rafiki was reported missing in the group and on June 2, 2020, a team mounted a search for the missing silverback. The body of Rafiki was later found in the Hakato area inside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
Rafiki’s demise left a void in the Nkuringo family as no successor has yet emerged to take over leadership of Njuringo. Rangers are monitoring the mountain gorilla group as it remains vulnerable to attack from unhabituated gorillas. It is speculated that either Christmas or Posho will take over leadership of this group.