UNITED NATIONS – The illegal trade in elephant ivory may constitute an important source of funding for armed groups, including the Lord's Resistance Army, threatening peace and security in central Africa, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council.
In a report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, Ban said that the situation has become so serious in some countries that governments are already using the army as well as police and paramilitary forces to hunt down poachers.
"Poaching and its potential linkages to other criminal, even terrorist, activities constitute a grave menace to sustainable peace and security in central Africa," the secretary-general said, urging affected governments to consider poaching a major national and regional concern requiring concerted action.
Ban pointed to the slaughter of more than 11,000 elephants in a park in northeastern Gabon between 2004 and 2013, more than 300 elephants killed in one area of a park in Cameroon in the last two months of 2012, and 86 elephants — including 33 pregnant females — slaughtered in a week in March 2013.
Ban said poachers are using more sophisticated and powerful weapons, "some of which, it is believed, might be originating from the fallout in Libya" following the uprising that ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The report said the growing instability was apparent in the Central African Republic where rebel groups united to oust longtime president Francois Bozize in March. Since then, the rebels have been accused of employing sexual violence, killing civilians and rampant looting.
Ban urged the Security Council to consider sanctions against those who have committed "gross human rights violations."
Ban also said suspected attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army continue to be reported in remote border areas of the Central African Republic and Congo, resulting in civilian casualties, abductions and the displacement of people.
LRA fighters began their attacks more than 20 years ago in northern Uganda. When Ugandan troops flushed them out of the country, they moved into South Sudan, Congo and the Central African Republic.
The secretary-general said the U.N. human rights office is finalizing a report on LRA abuses from its formation in 1987 until 2012.
"The report finds that the LRA is responsible for more than 100,000 deaths and that between 60,000 and 100,000 children are believed to have been abducted by the rebel group and that 2.5 million civilians have been displaced as a result of its incursions," Ban said.