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“Tusk Wars”: New information on the blood ivory trade of Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army

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“Tusk Wars”: New information on the blood ivory trade of Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army

Posted by Enough Team on October 26, 2015


Fresh field research shows Joseph Kony’s LRA is down to 120 fighters, but its abductions are rising; Kony remains in Sudan-controlled territory; LRA is poaching elephants, trading ivory for ammunition in Sudan; Obama extends U.S. mission

October 26, 2015 (Washington, DC) – Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is part of an onslaught of poaching in central Africa, and continues to pose a threat to local populations, across a swathe of central and east Africa, according to a new field-researched report by the Enough Project. In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Garamba National Park, the report details LRA hunting groups and Sudanese and South Sudanese poachers are now in “an open war” against park rangers. On Friday, President Obama reauthorized the U.S. support mission to the African Union Regional Task Force to counter the LRA for an additional year.

The Enough report, “Tusk Wars: Inside the LRA and the Bloody Business of Ivory” by researcher Ledio Cakaj, uncovers new evidence of ivory trafficking into Sudan, including testimony by ex-LRA members of transactions with Sudanese merchants, as well as alleged trade with Sudan Armed Forces officers.

Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The LRA is down but not out. Its illicit ivory trafficking is helping Kony re-arm, and the LRA could now reorganize with a new generation of fighters. The U.S. advisors should step up efforts to cut off the ivory lifeline and boost defections.”

The LRA, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, is notorious for the abduction of more than 66,000 youth for use as child soldiers, servants, and sex slaves over the past 28 years.

From Kafia Kingi, an enclave controlled by Sudan, Kony commands LRA troops operating in Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Sudan.

John Prendergast, founding director of the Enough Project, said: “The Obama administration deserves tremendous credit for staying the course to find Kony and eliminate the LRA’s capacity to kill and abduct civilians. The mission has reduced LRA killings by 90 percent over four years, but there are 200,000 people still displaced. To help end the LRA, Sudan should allow the African Union troops access to Sudan-controlled territory where Kony has been hiding since 2011.”

Selected report excerpts:

  • The LRA has committed 50 attacks and 500 civilian abductions in the first eight months of 2015, according to the LRA Crisis Tracker.
  • Despite the successes of the African Union/U.S. counter-LRA mission, Kony has continued to traffic ivory, secured by fighters in DRC’s Garamba National Park. One LRA unit is based in Congo to poach elephants, and two other groups transport the ivory to Sudan-controlled Kafia Kingi. Two of Kony’s sons are involved in the trafficking, Salim and Ali.
  • New field research by the Enough Project provides new details about the traffic of ivory from DRC into Kafia Kingi, and the transaction between the LRA and Sudanese merchants.
  • The independent research organization C4ADS conducted headstamp analysis on spent ammunition rounds found by park rangers in Garamba National Park following LRA and Janjaweed attacks. They concluded that the ammunition was manufactured in Serbia (LRA), as well as Iran, Sudan, and Italy.
  • Recent defectors from Kony’s group have emerged with large amounts of fresh ammunition that was obtained by trafficking ivory.
  • LRA defectors report that Kony is hoarding some of the larger ivory tusks in anticipation of a “rainy day” for the LRA. The conflict-ivory trade perpetuates the poaching of more elephants, the illicit trafficking of ivory, and violence against civilians.
  • Based on new interviews with recent LRA defectors, LRA founder and leader Joseph Kony was based in the Sudan-controlled enclave of Kafia Kingi as of May 2015, an area he has rarely moved from since 2011.
  • In contrast to the Government of Sudan’s denials of LRA presence in its territory, LRA defectors have made consistent claims that Sudanese military personnel has knowledge of the presence of LRA groups in Kafia Kingi.
  • Kony has gradually lost some control over his troops, who are increasingly likely to leave the ranks or disobey his orders. Nine of Kony’s personal bodyguards made an attempt on his life in mid-2015 – the first time that has ever occurred.

The report includes key recommendations, including:

  • Boosting counter-LRA operations: The U.S. Congress should continue to robustly support counter-LRA operations and support that Kony’s removal should be the mission’s goal.
  • Supporting the Global Anti-Poaching Act: Members of Congress should co-sponsor the Global Anti-Poaching Act, H.R. 2494, introduced by Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY). If passed, the bill would help create consequences for atrocity perpetrators sustaining themselves through wildlife trafficking by making wildlife trafficking a predicate offense for money laundering, and support the professionalization of partner countries’ park rangers.
  • Addressing Sudan’s complicity: The United States should take a more prominent role in countering Sudan’s complicity in aiding the LRA. The U.S. counter-LRA mission should continue to deploy advisors close to the areas controlled by Sudan in Kafia Kingi so it can gather precise intelligence on Kony’s whereabouts.
  • Supporting defections: U.S. advisors and their African Union partner forces should establish a Safe Reporting Site at the newly established U.S. base in Sam Ouandja, CAR, and heavily advertise this defection opportunity to LRA groups in the area.
  • Banning ivory: As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalizes the rule on U.S. restrictions on ivory sales and imports, it should maintain narrow exemption language in order to eliminate loopholes that would allow ivory traffickers to continue to bring ivory into the United States in smaller trinkets. In particular, FWS should keep the proposed trading ban intact on items “wholly and primarily” made of ivory.
  • Ending impunity: Foreign courts, particularly in the European Union and the United States, with jurisdiction over individuals and companies suspected of high-level involvement in illegal ivory trafficking, should investigate the most serious cases of trafficking, natural resource pillage, money laundering, and other related crimes. Such individuals and companies should also face targeted sanctions where evidence shows violation of E.U., U.S., or U.N. sanctions regimes aimed at supporting peace in central Africa.

Read the full report, “Tusk Wars”

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact:
Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606, [email protected]

The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at