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Poaching funds Somalia's al Shabaab, activists say

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-27

Somalia’s al Shabaab militia, responsible for the Westgate mall siege in Nairobi, is being partly financed by the illegal ivory trade, a wildlife group said Thursday. The trade could be supplying up to 40% of the Islamist group’s funds.

Somalia's al Shabaab militia, which carried out a deadly attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall, is partly funded by the poaching trade, wildlife activists said Thursday.

"Over the last 18 months, we've been investigating the involvement of al Shabaab in trafficking ivory through Kenya," Andrea Crosta, executive director of the Elephant Action League told Agence France-Presse.

The trade “could be supplying up to 40 percent of the funds needed to keep them in business," Crosta said, though she specified that al Shabaab are not involved in the actual killing of elephants or rhinos.

The Islamist group has been the centre of attention after claiming responsibility for a four-day siege at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi which left scores people dead by the time it ended Tuesday.

The Elephant Action League added that there has been evidence of ties between the poaching trade and militant groups like Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army or Darfur’s Janjaweed, cited in a UN report published in May.

Activists hope that emphasizing the links between groups that commit violence and the illicit trade may encourage governments to crack down on the practice.

"We're asking the international community to start considering all the ivory (and rhino horn) trade's stakeholders, ivory consumers, ivory shops and even governments, de-facto accessories to manslaughter, human exploitation and even terrorism," Crosta said.

Illegal ivory trade driven by Asia and Middle East

According to sources within al Shabaab, one to three tons of ivory pass through the ports in southern Somalia every month, sold for an estimated $200 per kilo.

Al Shabaab's ability to profit off the trade was undermined when it lost control of southern ports in Kismayo and Merca, but the group still controls other hubs.

The illegal ivory trade, worth roughly between $7 billion and $10 billion (5.37 and 7.67 billion euros) a year, is mostly driven by demand in Asia (particularly China and Thailand) and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhino horns are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments.

Ivory trade has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1990.

But animal rights groups estimate that poachers in Africa kill between 25,000 and 35,000 elephants annually.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-27


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