Illegal ivory trade 'funding Lord's Resistance Army rebels'
Patience Akumu is a Features writer with the Observer newspaper in Uganda. She is the winner of the David Astor Journalism Award 2013 and is on a fellowship programme with The Independent. She was nominated for her work on human rights, ranging from women’s rights to lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
Friday 07 June 2013
The Lord's Resistance Army has resorted to elephant poaching in order to fund its activities, according to human rights organisations.
Human rights activists and conservationists warn that "poaching and its potential linkages to other criminal, even terrorist, activities constitute a grave menace to sustainable peace and security in Central Africa."
The LRA leader, Joseph Kony, tops the wanted list of the International Criminal Court. Together with three other leaders, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen, and Vincent Otti, Kony has been indicted for crimes against humanity. Atrocities in Northern Uganda including murders, mutilations, rape, abductions, lootings and displacement of communities have all been attributed to the LRA.
Kony, originally based in South Sudan from where his militants terrorised Northern Uganda, has not attacked Uganda since 2006. However, the group reportedly continues to attack and displace people in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.
These places are also bases for their illegal trade and, human rights activists say, they are threatening the existence of elephants in Africa. The UN estimates that the elephant population in DRC and CRA could have already declined by 90 per cent.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned: "Wildlife crime has become a serious threat to the security, political stability, economy, natural resources and cultural heritage of many countries.
"The extent of the response required to effectively address this threat are often beyond the sole remit of environmental or wildlife law enforcement agencies, or of one country or region alone."
The LRA joins other rebel groups like Janjaweed in Cameroon and CRA, who have for long relied on illegal ivory trade to fund their operations.
"The spread of cross-border poaching in Central Africa and its links to sophisticated armed groups is alarming. We have seen the devastating impact of this crime in too many countries," said Jim Leape, International Director General of international conservation group WWF.
The report, Kony's Ivory: How Elephant Poaching in Congo Helps Support the Lord's Resistance Army, was authored by Invisible Children, an American charity organisation dedicated to exposing the atrocities of the LRA.
One of Invisible Children's most popular videos Kony 2012, while controversial, enlightened a mostly oblivious world about the extent of LRA atrocities. Critics however say the film simplified the LRA war and ignored the atrocities equally perpetuated by the Ugandan army. Following Kony 2012, the U.S sent troops to reinforce the UPDF's efforts in fighting the LRA.
In this latest report, Invisible Children, together with co-authors Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project, say that the resources gained from the illegal trade of ivory undercut the efforts of the African Union Regional Task Force soldiers to combat the LRA and undermine the mission of US military advisers to assist their work.
The biggest market for ivory is china. The country is under pressure from international community that wants it to stop the trade in ivory to help conservation and, now, security efforts.
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