Monday, 3 June 2013

News Report: Joseph Kony Poaching Elephants To Survive

Joseph Kony

Credit: Associated Press
Members of a militia run by fugitive African warlord Joseph Kony are killing elephants across Central Africa to support Kony's struggling group, according to a report by watchdog organizations that are urging the expansion of programs to encourage defections from the Lord's Resistance Army.
The Enough Project, the Satellite Sentinel Project and two other groups said in the report released Monday that the LRA has turned to elephant poaching "as a means to sustain itself," and that the militia uses money from the illegal trade in ivory to acquire food and other supplies.
"With prices at record-high levels, trading illegal ivory offers the LRA another way to sustain itself in addition to its habitual pillaging," the report said. "Former senior fighters who defected from the group report that the LRA trades ivory for arms, ammunition, and food."
The report said Kony, a cruel warlord who is accused of using boys as fighters and girls as sex slaves, gave the order to butcher elephants for their ivory as far back as 2010. Former captives say that LRA groups in Central African Republic and Congo "trade ivory with unidentified people who arrive in helicopters."
In February Ugandan troops operating in Central African Republic discovered six elephant tusks believed to have been hidden in the bush by the LRA. Ugandan army officials said at the time that they were acting on information given by an LRA defector who said Kony long ago instructed his fighters to find ivory and bring it to him.
Experts say that Africa's elephants are under increased threat from habitat loss and poachers motivated by rising demand for ivory in Asia. About 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants are believed to have roamed sub-Saharan Africa. Today fewer than a million remain. The elephants of Central Africa, a region long plagued by armed conflict and lawlessness, are especially vulnerable. Much of the harvested ivory ends up as small trinkets.
The new report said Congo's expansive but poorly protected Garamba National Park, which once was used by LRA commanders as safe haven, is the source of some of the ivory that ends up before Kony. But Garamba's elephants also are being targeted by "members of the armed forces of (Congo), South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda," the report said, citing the concerns of park rangers there.
It said the LRA is part of "the larger poaching crisis that puts wild African elephants at risk of local extinction."
Facing pressure from U.S.-backed African Union troops tasked with eliminating its leaders, the LRA —which used to have several thousand men — is now degraded and scattered in small numbers in Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic. Fewer than 500 LRA rebels are still active in the bush, according to the Ugandan military, but they can conduct hit-and-run operations that terrorize villagers and move across the region's porous borders in small groups.
Kony himself is believed to be highly mobile, but the U.S.-based watchdog group Resolve said in a report in April that he recently directed killings from an enclave protected by the Sudanese military. Until early this year, Resolve's report said, Kony and some of his commanders were operating in Kafia Kingi, a disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border where African troops tasked with catching Kony don't have access. Sudan's government denies this charge.
Kony, whose rebellion originated in Uganda before spreading to other parts of Central Africa, was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Last year he became the focus of international attention after the advocacy group Invisible Children released a popular online video highlighting LRA crimes and calling for Kony to be stopped from recruiting children.
Some 100 U.S. military advisers are helping Uganda-led African troops to hunt down Kony and other LRA commanders. Their mission was recently set back by a change in government in Central African Republic, where former rebels who now control the country are reportedly hostile to foreign troops. Anti-Kony operations there have been suspended since April, raising fears among watchdog groups that the LRA could use the opportunity to recruit or regroup.
Poaching has also been rampant in the Dzanga-Sangha reserve in the rainforests of southwestern Central African Republic where more than 3,400 forest elephants roam, conservationists have reported. The political chaos since March has allowed poaching to escalate, and anti-poaching rangers who fled the rebel-controlled areas said that Sudanese hunters are now working in tandem with the armed rebels who overthrew the government in March.

News Report: Commission Members Say Kenya Presidency Censored Report On Land Grabbing

Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Three foreign members of a commission looking into historical injustices in Kenya have said the president’s office censored a report to exclude references to irregular land seizures.
The commissioners said the Office of the President put pressure on the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to delete paragraphs from its May report in which witnesses testified that Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta irregularly gave out public land to his family, friends and ethnic group. Current President Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of the country’s founding leader.
“We could not in good conscience agree to the removal of these voices, particularly when such removal was so clearly motivated by political pressure from high government officials,” commissioners Ron Slye of the United States, Berhanu Dinka of Ethiopia and Gertrude Chawatama of Zambia said in a statement published on Sunday.
As a result of this pressure, changes were made irregularly to the approved and signed report, which was published on May 21, after the end of the commission’s operational period, the foreign commissioners said. The dissenting commissioners’ opinion was also excluded, contrary to agreed procedure that it should be printed with the main report.
“The political pressure that was brought to bear ostensibly to protect the reputation of the first President will probably have the opposite effect of tarnishing that legacy,” the statement added.
The commissioners said they do not know whether the current president was aware of the actions of officials in his office.
The TJRC report detailed political assassinations, human rights violations, corruption and other historical abuses in Kenya between independence in 1963 and 2008, when the commission was set up following post-election violence that killed 1,200 people.
Leaked To State House:
Land was one of the drivers of conflict during 2007/08 and of other conflicts that Kenya has experienced since 1963.
The commissioners said a copy of the chapter on land from its report “appears to have been leaked to individuals with ties to State House [the president’s official residence]” while the document was waiting to be printed.
The Office of the President then insisted on being given an advance copy of the entire report so that President Uhuru Kenyatta could familiarise himself with its contents before officially receiving it.
Soon after, several Kenyan commissioners began arguing for major revisions to the land chapter.
“A number of Commissioners, including at least one of the international Commissioners, received phone calls from a senior official in the Office of the President suggesting various changes to the land chapter,” the statement said.
The deleted material mainly details allegations of land grabbing by Jomo Kenyatta.
For example, one paragraph says Kenyatta gave his son a wedding gift in 1976 of “a large tract of government land which was, apparently, acquired without official approval and without compliance with legal procedures”.
Another paragraph says Kenyatta “unlawfully alienated to himself 250 acres” of trust land on the coast that was supposed to be held by the government in trust for the people.
“Irregularly, President Kenyatta took all of Tiwi and Diani trust lands at the expense of local people who immediately became ‘squatters’ on the land and were subsequently evicted, rendering them landless and poor,” it said.
Tiwi and Diani are prime holiday destinations on Kenya’s coast where international hotels line the beachfront. This land currently sells at 15 million Kenyan shillings ($176,000) per acre, the report said.
Also deleted was a warning that such land disputes “should be carefully addressed to avert the possibility of more secessionist movements” – referring to the Mombasa Republic Council on the coast, which wants independence from Kenya.
Campaigners have cast doubt on any action being taken in response to the alleged censorship of the report, given that President Kenyatta’s father is named as one of the main culprits in the irregular land seizures.

Special Report: US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa

“As we look toward the future, it is clear that Africa is more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the United States in particular. Africa’s economies are among the fastest growing in the world, with technological change sweeping across the continent and offering tremendous opportunities in banking, medicine, politics, and business. At the same time, the burgeoning youth population in Africa is changing economies  and political systems in profound ways”.