Illegal Ivory Trade Fueling Terrorism In Africa

A few years ago the global consumer was educated about “conflict diamonds,” illegally trade jewels from which the profit was used to finance ongoing civil wars in central and western Africa.

While the illegal trade did not cease, the public awareness contributed to the decline in the marketplace. Yesterday’s conflict diamonds are today’s ivory trade. China is the largest purchaser of illegal ivory, but consumers are part of the problem either voluntarily or unwittingly.

In an article in The Los Angeles Times, Lauren Neme details the links between the attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya with the illegal trade in ivory and argues it serves to beckon the world, particularly consumers, to take action.

Neme says many consumers blithely purchase ivory jewelry thinking they are not contributing to the financing of the terror trade. But they do so with willful ignorance.

“[Consumers] are taking part in the slaughter of elephants. They are contributing to the deaths of rangers, men and women who lose their lives protecting elephants and rhinos. They are harming farmers, who have seen an increase in attacks by elephants traumatized by poachers. They are harming villagers and disadvantaged communities, who have been exploited by the poachers or forced into criminal activities.

Andrea Crosta, director of The Elephant Action League told London’s Independent newspaper that “up to 40 per cent of the cost [of al-Shabaab’s] army of 5,000 people” is funded with finances deriving from the illegal trade in ivory.

“Illicit trade has grown quite a lot in the past two or three years…. The only reason for this is because [the organised crime syndicates] are getting away with doing what they are doing,” said Gerhard von Rooyen of the Nairobi branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

“It is expensive and logistically complicated for the Al Shabaab to plan and carry out an attack, and the booming ivory trade is a very important source of funding. Consumers can impede the group by refusing to purchase ivory,” she asserts.

According to the UN, the illegal ivory trade has doubled since 2007. Some consignments seized by authorities have contained tusks from hundreds of elephants.

Michael Marshall adds in an article in the New Scientist two other organizations that uses money from ivory to fuel terror attacks – the Lord’s Resistance Army, the central African Christian fundamentalist group led by Joseph Kony, may be involved in elephant poaching, and the Janjaweed, one of the groups involved in mass killings in Darfur, west Sudan.




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