Murder of an elephant defender: 11 death sentences in Tanzania
Eva Deschamps / December 3, 2022
Eleven people were sentenced to death Friday by a court in Tanzania for the August 2017 killing in the East African country of Wayne Lotter, a prominent environmental activist.
Wayne Lotter, a 51-year-old South African who lived and worked in Tanzania, where he was dedicated to fighting elephant poaching, had been shot dead in the economic capital Dar es Salaam.
The precise motives of the perpetrators have not been established, but his colleagues believe that Lotter paid with his life for his fight to protect elephants.
During her reading of the judgment, Judge Laila Mgonya said the trial "proved beyond reasonable doubt" the charges against the eleven defendants, who include two Burundian nationals.
"Some of the suspects, in their statements recorded by the police, admitted to participating in the preparatory meetings and the murder," she said, adding that 32 witnesses also supported the charges.
"The evidence provided was strong enough to convict them," she said.
Death sentences are not uncommon in Tanzania, but they are usually commuted to life imprisonment. The last execution was in 1994.
Up to 22 people were accused of organizing or carrying out the murder of Lotter, co-founder of the Tanzanian branch of the nature protection foundation Pams (Protected Area Management Solutions).
The prosecution had dropped charges against four people, and seven others had been released by the court in previous sessions.
Tanzania is one of the countries with the largest elephant population on the African continent. It is also one of the most affected by poaching.
According to official data, the pachyderm population there decreased by 60% between 2009 and 2014. It then recovered, from 43,000 in 2014 to 60,000 in 2018, mainly due to the efforts of the authorities who created specialized anti-poaching units.