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U.S. Sanctions LRA Ivory Traffickers: Important Step, but More Comprehensive Approach Needed, Say Experts 

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U.S. Sanctions LRA Ivory Traffickers: Important Step, but More Comprehensive Approach Needed, Say Experts 

Posted by Enough Team on December 16, 2017

Enough Project praises this step and calls for broader actions on ivory trafficking networks, corrupt officials in South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda in order to impact Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and “rampant” poaching of endangered elephants in the region

Washington, DC — This week, the U.S. placed targeted sanctions on two key figures involved in the illegal trafficking of ivory for Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). After the United States and African Union disappointingly pulled out its counter-LRA mission in April 2017, the sanctions are an important step that must be built on significantly. A more comprehensive approach to counter both the LRA and wildlife trafficking in East and Central Africa is needed to complement the sanctions, according to LRA experts at the Enough Project.

On Wednesday, December 13, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions on Okot Lukwang and Musa Hatari for contributing to the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), and for facilitating the trafficking of ivory, weapons, and money in support of the LRA.

The Enough Project publicly reported on Lukwang and Hatari in September 2016 as part of its investigative report, “Tusk Wars: Inside the LRA and the Bloody Business of Ivory” by Ledio Cakaj. In this and other field-based LRA and ivory reports, Enough has documented the abuses and fundraising strategies of Kony and the LRA, including the poaching of elephants and ivory trafficking as a major source of revenue. Enough experts are available for interviews, further comment and analysis.

Sasha Lezhnev, Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The U.S. sanctions are an important step and will make it harder for international ivory traffickers to buy from the LRA and their traders. Elephant poaching and ivory smuggling is still rampant in Congo and the region, however, and the U.S. should follow up with sanctions on the networks of South Sudanese, Sudanese, and Ugandan traffickers and the officials they work with to move the ivory. Those countries in the middle of the ivory trafficking chain act as critical hubs, and their corrupt activities must be shut down.”

Holly Dranginis, Senior Analyst at The Sentry, Enough’s investigative initiative, said: “Since its inception, the Lord’s Resistance Army has seized on regional instability and porous borders to wreak havoc on civilians. Its participation in trafficking cartels amidst Central African Republic’s ongoing conflict is the latest in that long line of opportunism and predation. These U.S. sanctions designations show the possibility of countering such fluid, dangerous networks. But they must come as part of a comprehensive strategy not limited to ad hoc designations. Banks and law enforcement in the region should also take progressive action, making it more costly to poach wildlife, traffic it across borders, and launder the profits.”

The LRA is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, and has been responsible for an array of mass atrocities and human rights abuses, including the use of over 30,000 child soldiers.

Dranginis added: “These sanctions will only be effective if they’re part of a larger strategy that accounts for the transnational nature of the problem and the diverse tools at the United State’s disposal. Sanctions against companies further down the supply chain, diplomatic pressure against the regional governments for allowing border agents and other state officials to turn a blind eye, anti-money laundering measures aimed at banks in the region, and criminal investigations could all come to bear on the situation, and together would make for a potent overall intervention. One component without the others will do little to address the ongoing violence and illicit money flows. It’s encouraging that the issue is being elevated symbolically by these designations, but they need to come with more to have an impact.”

Key relevant reports by the Enough Project:

  • Deadly Profits: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking through Uganda and South Sudan” (July 2017)
  • Bankrupting Kleptocracy: Financial tools to counter atrocities in Africa’s deadliest war zones” (October 2016)
  • Tusk WarsInside the LRA and the Bloody Business of Ivory”

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606, gh@enoughproject.org.

About THE ENOUGH PROJECT – an anti-atrocity policy group
The Enough Project supports peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones. Together with its investigative initiative The Sentry, Enough counters armed groups, violent kleptocratic regimes, and their commercial partners that are sustained and enriched by corruption, criminal activity, and the trafficking of natural resources. By helping to create consequences for the major perpetrators and facilitators of atrocities and corruption, Enough seeks to build leverage in support of peace and good governance. Enough conducts research in conflict zones, engages governments and the private sector on potential policy solutions, and mobilizes public campaigns focused on peace, human rights, and breaking the links between war and illicit profit. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.