The Enough Project and partner organizations The Resolve and Invisible Children put out a joint statement today detailing how, on direct orders from its leader Joseph Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group is increasingly trafficking ivory, diamonds, and gold in order to obtain weapons, ammunition, food, and other supplies. The illicit trade may be linked to the LRA’s efforts to improve relations with other armed groups such as Seleka, the Sudanese military, and central African cattle herders, according to new research.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to debate the international response to the LRA crisis early next month.
“New evidence that the LRA is trafficking illicit ivory, diamonds, and gold through Sudanese-held territory must spark a stronger response from the UN Security Council and the international community,” said Paul Ronan, Director of The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative. “For too long such reports have been met with indifference, despite evidence that such trafficking strengthens the group’s ability to prey on civilians.”
During a recent two-week research mission to Uganda, the Enough Project, The Resolve, and Invisible Children interviewed security forces and former LRA members, including 11 Ugandan males who had defected from the LRA this year. All were former fighters or commanders with detailed information about how the group operates.
Recent LRA defectors report that Kony has issued standing orders for rebel fighters to loot diamonds and gold from artisanal miners in eastern Central African Republic (CAR). Most of the illicit minerals are then transported to Kony’s group, which operates frequently in the neighboring Kafia Kingi enclave, a disputed area controlled by the Sudanese military. Minerals are also reportedly traded with local civilians and members of the Seleka armed group, which controls much of eastern CAR.
“The illicit minerals trade provides the LRA with vital resources. It’s time that those who buy diamonds and gold from deadly rebel groups like the LRA face international scrutiny and sanctions,” said Kasper Agger, Field Researcher at the Enough Project.