Since 2012, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader, Joseph Kony, has relied on illegal ivory poaching to fund continued violence in central Africa. Based on community reports collected through our Early Warning Radio Network and countless interviews with former LRA fighters, we know that Kony frequently orders LRA commanders to poach elephants in Garamba National Park in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then transport ivory north to be traded and sold to fund LRA operations.
As poaching and wildlife trafficking helps fund Joseph Kony and the LRA, it also puts local communities in and around Garamba National Park at risk of violent attacks. Over the years, our LRA Crisis Tracker analysis reports have shown that, when LRA groups are poaching in the Garamba area, local communities experience more attacks by the LRA involving looting and abduction. Recent trends in LRA activity in northeastern DRC have been no exception.
Throughout May 2017, communities in our Early Warning Radio Network reported a series of attacks in northeastern DRC, which suggested that a group of LRA fighters was headed in the direction of Garamba National Park—analysis which we included in our LRA Crisis Tracker May 2017 Security Brief.
The following month, an additional ten attacks were reported through the Early Warning Radio Network in areas near Garamba. We also received reports of LRA forces seen transporting ivory tusks, like the one below, coming in through the Network in early July, indicating that an LRA group was indeed poaching elephants in and around the park. Additionally, our team in Dungu, DRC, was able to interview two young Central African men who escaped LRA captivity in June who confirmed that, at the time of their escape, the LRA group they were with had orders from Joseph Kony to poach elephants for their ivory in Garamba.
The LRA is just one of several armed groups in central Africa who exploit regional wildlife and other natural resources while also targeting local communities with violence. That is why, as we work to improve the safety of families living in isolated areas of this region, we’re also collaborating with conservation experts to help stop the wildlife exploitation that funds armed group violence.
Thanks to the brave Early Warning Radio Network operators and Peace Committees who help ensure that LRA attacks against their communities are reported, as well as information from interviews with individuals who have courageously escaped LRA captivity, we’re able to continue to provide humanitarian, protection, and conservation actors in the region with up-to-date information and analysis on the activities of the LRA and other armed groups, to help prevent illegal poaching, make communities safer, and save lives.