KAMPALA, Feb 7 – Uganda’s army on Thursday recovered a cache of elephant tusks that it says was hidden by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group in the jungles of the Central African Republic.
In a statement the army said that a squad of soldiers that is part of a mission hunting rebel leader Joseph Kony found the small stash of ivory following a tip-off from an LRA defector.
“These tusks, believed to have been hidden by the LRA, were located in a remote area of the bush to the north of Djema,” the statement said, referring to a town in the southeast of the Central African Republic.
Believed to now number around 250 fighters, the LRA has waged a brutal 25-year insurgency against the Ugandan government, becoming infamous for mutilating victims and seizing children to use as sex slaves and porters.
The Ugandan army – backed up by around 100 US special forces troops – is spearheading the hunt for Kony in a vast area of sparsely populated jungle.
In the statement the Ugandan army said that US military representatives had “secured, documented and photographed” the tusks and that it was now in contact with Central African authorities to dispose of the ivory.
On Monday, a coalition of US advocacy groups working on solving the LRA threat said that rebel groups operating in the Garamba national park in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo had poached elephants and could be looking to sell their tusks.
“This has raised concerns that LRA groups may be using the illegal ivory trade as a method to acquire new supplies or forms of support,” said the statement from the anti-LRA coalition that includes Invisible Children, the group behind the wildly popular Kony 2012 internet video.
The LRA has split up into small groups and Kony is currently thought to be hiding out close to where the borders of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Sudan meet.