Malawi burns ivory amid Tanzania’s protests

Malawi  ignored Tanzania’s protests and went ahead to burn 781 pieces of ivory believed to have been smuggled from the latter following a court order.

Tanzania had objected to the torching of the ivory, arguing most of it was poached from its parks.

Dodoma also argued that the ivory in question was part of evidence to be tendered in Tanzanian court against poachers.

The stockpile was set ablaze in Malawi’s northern city of Mzuzu.

Alleged smugglers

Malawi, through the country’s tax agency, the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), last year impounded the 781 pieces at the Songwe Border Post, from alleged smugglers travelling from Dar es Salaam.

The ivory was believed to have been smuggled from Tanzania in 2013 and that some Tanzanians were involved. The suspects in the country of origin used two Malawian brothers, Chancy and Patrick Kaunda, to transport the ivory to Lilongwe, but the two were intercepted, arrested and later fined $7,000 by the High Court in 2015.

The stay order

The government of Tanzania in 2015 obtained a 90 day stay order from the Malawi High Court in Mzuzu to stop burning of ivory until it concluded the case.

However, a Malawi court on March 2, 2016 ordered Blantyre to burn the ivory on March 14, 2016 in full view of the public after Tanzania failed to extend the stay order.

Ironically, the Malawi Government, despite expressing commitment to end ivory trade, secretly asked the court to stop the burning, but failed, hence the Monday action.

The decision

A lawyer representing the Government of Tanzania, Mr Christon Ghambi, said the burning of ivory would affect the court case back home.

He said Tanzania was hopeful that Malawi would consider stopping burning the remaining pieces of ivory so that suspects in Tanzania can also be convicted like the Kaunda brothers.

“Tanzania is not happy with the decision to burn ivory. It will affect cases in Tanzania. It will be hard to prove the case as the ivory has been destroyed,” said Mr Ghambi.