THE United States embassy in Namibia and the World Customs Organisation recently hosted an operational planning training course for customs officers and other law enforcement agencies in Windhoek.
The workshop was attended by officials from 14 countries and was funded by the US government's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
The workshop focused on operational planning to enable customs officers to stem the trafficking of wildlife products. Participants can immediately implement this specialised training in their daily duties in border security, law enforcement, and immigration to deter smuggling.
The training was part of the World Customs Organisation Inama Project (Inama means 'wild animals' in the Bemba language of Zambia). The project focuses on strengthening the capacity of customs administrations in sub-Saharan Africa, while focusing on the illegal trade in wildlife (fauna and flora) and in particular endangered species as defined by Cites.
The US has supported this project with US$1 million over the past three years and is dedicated to the continued support of Namibia and other countries to stop wildlife traffickers from plundering the region.
The workshop was attended by 30 participants from Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Hong Kong, Malawi, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Singapore, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.
US deputy chief of mission John Kowalski said all countries have systems to facilitate the legal movement of goods. However, it is their duty to "find better operational ways to stop the illegal movement of goods". He expressed appreciation to all participants who attended the workshop.
Acting head of Namibian customs at the Ministry of Finance Uazapi Maendo said in order to protect conservancies, training interventions such as these should be carried out regularly as they enhance participants' knowledge in areas of wildlife trade through WCO tools for strengthening cross-border relations between countries.
WCO customs moderation adviser Matthew Bannon highlighted the challenges and opportunities presented by increasing interest in the illegal trade of animal products, particularly in areas such as conservation, management, and economic issues.