By Kristof Titeca [Admin note: This is a modified version of this author's essay (also of today's date) at Africanarguments.org.\
Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to the LRA's involvement in ivory trade. This was sparked off by the Enough report 'Kony's ivory' released in June, which described the LRA's ivory activities in Garamba Park, North-Eastern DRC.
The report was followed by a range of articles highlighting how 'tusks fund terror'; and further elaborated in other reports. All of these highlight how the LRA "gains vital resources through its participation in the illegal ivory trade" - as the Enough report summarized (p.11).
Yet, narrowing down the ivory problem in and around Garamba Park to the LRA is problematic for several reasons.
Most importantly, in order to effectively address the ivory issue, it is crucial to understand the functioning of the commodity chain in and around Garamba Park. Below I discuss a few basic points about this commodity chain, based on ongoing field research, in order to contextualize the LRA's engagement in ivory.
Traditionally, a wide variety of actors are involved in poaching in Garamba Park, where it is both a livelihood strategy and a more organized criminalized activity.
In the first case, poaching happens on a small-scale basis, and is carried out by farmers or local hunters/poachers; while in the second case, poaching happens by more professional poachers, who often come from neighboring countries.
Historically, poachers have come from as far as Libya; and an important part of the poaching is done by South Sudanese poachers, who cross the border and typically stay for a few weeks in Garamba Park. More....