CategoryLords Resistance Army

Ivory beyond the LRA: why a broader focus is needed in studying poaching – By Kristof Titeca

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.

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The (LRA) conflict: Beyond the LRA lobby & the hunt for Kony… and towards civilian protection – By Kristof Titeca

On the 28th of February this year, an unfortunate incident happened in Garamba National Park, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)-affected area in North-Eastern Congo. A group of Congolese soldiers went on patrol, in order to track LRA-elements; while at the same time a group of (armed) park rangers was patrolling the park. In an area where civilians were present, both groups noticed each other, and both groups considered the other group to be the LRA. The shooting between the two groups, left one Congolese soldier and one civilian dead, and three soldiers and one civilian wounded. The following day, the park rangers were actually attacked by the LRA in the same area, but managed to push them away after heavy fighting. A park ranger later died of his injuries.  At least, all of this was the official version of the events, which was communicated by the Congolese soldiers involved.  Reports from local civil society groups and international military actors revealed that the above group of soldiers was poaching in the park: they had killed 2 hippopotamus, and had asked civilians to help them cutting and transporting the animals. The park rangers had noticed them, and fighting erupted, which resulted in the above injuries and killings. In retaliation, the soldiers had attacked the park rangers the next day. They also threatened to attack any park ranger leaving the park, or passing through their area. This tense situation also had a strong effect on civilian life: not only were civilians wounded through the above attacks; civil society actors complained that markets could no longer take place, as civilians feared more violence and attacks by the soldiers, who were blaming civilians for the park rangers’ attacks.

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The (LRA) conflict: Beyond the LRA lobby & the hunt for Kony… and towards civilian protection – By Kristof Titeca

On the 28th of February this year, an unfortunate incident happened in Garamba National Park, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)-affected area in North-Eastern Congo. A group of Congolese soldiers went on patrol, in order to track LRA-elements; while at the same time a group of (armed) park rangers was patrolling the park. In an area where civilians were present, both groups noticed each other, and both groups considered the other group to be the LRA. The shooting between the two groups, left one Congolese soldier and one civilian dead, and three soldiers and one civilian wounded. The following day, the park rangers were actually attacked by the LRA in the same area, but managed to push them away after heavy fighting. A park ranger later died of his injuries.  At least, all of this was the official version of the events, which was communicated by the Congolese soldiers involved.  Reports from local civil society groups and international military actors revealed that the above group of soldiers was poaching in the park: they had killed 2 hippopotamus, and had asked civilians to help them cutting and transporting the animals. The park rangers had noticed them, and fighting erupted, which resulted in the above injuries and killings. In retaliation, the soldiers had attacked the park rangers the next day. They also threatened to attack any park ranger leaving the park, or passing through their area. This tense situation also had a strong effect on civilian life: not only were civilians wounded through the above attacks; civil society actors complained that markets could no longer take place, as civilians feared more violence and attacks by the soldiers, who were blaming civilians for the park rangers’ attacks.

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Reinventing Kony

When the Kony 2012 thing got worldwide attention I was too busy with other issues to start to write something. Yet I had many discussions with friends and acquaintances who had never shown any interest for Africa before. Who was this wicked man Kony and what did he really want? That was the most common questions. It sadly enough echoed ideas of Africa as the heart of darkness. But what puzzled me most was rather why now? At a point where Kony and his LRA were fewer and less of a threat than ever, why would the video clip from Invisible Children render this kind of attention? For the past few years I have taught African studies and African Anthropology at Uppsala University. One of my students’ favorite guest lecturers has been my former colleague Sverker Finnström. His book Living with bad surroundings (Duke 2008) is one of the best accounts on Northern Uganda and the LRA. For the past few years Sverker has in our class used video clips produced by Invisible Children to show how wrong ill-contextualized visual stuff can lead us. And it really can! I have elsewhere introduced the term Jackass journalism (in Swedish only) for journalists spending more time contextualizing, with any means of exaggeration available, themselves in super-dangerous places than making sense of something, and to my mind Invisible Children plays in the same league – can we call them a Jackass NGO?

Instead of furthering my own analysis on the topic I will give you some links to where Sverker has been writing:

’Kony 2012’ är en språngbräda för USA:s militär

 and translated into English:

“Kony 2012″ Is a Springboard for the US Military

another text:

“KONY 2012” and the Magic of International Relations

Sverker is also a contributor to the site Making sense of Kony

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