US sanctions two over ivory trade with LRA

The sanctions were based on foreign policy.

Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers pictured in 2008. The US has sanctioned two men over their ties with the rebel group. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

IN SUMMARY

  • The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted them for transferring ivory, weapons and money to support the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
  • The sanctions were based on foreign policy with national security against targeted foreign countries, regimes, terrorists and international narcotics traffickers.

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The US has sanctioned Ugandan Okot Lukwang and Musa Hatari of Sudan for alleged involvement in illicit trade in ivory by supporting an armed group that is contributing to conflict in Central Africa.

The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted them for transferring ivory, weapons and money to support the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

OFAC said Mr Lukwang and Mr Hatari were sanctioned on December 13, 2017, pursuant to an executive order targeting people contributing to the conflict in CAR through their links to the LRA.

“As a result of this action, all property and interests in property of those designated today subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them,” reada the notice.

Mr Lukwang’s home is in northern Uganda bordering South Sudan to the north and Kitgum district to the east. The home place of Mr Hatari in Sudan was not made public by OFAC.

The sanctions were based on foreign policy with national security against targeted foreign countries, regimes, terrorists and international narcotics traffickers.

Authority

OFAC acts under presidential emergency powers and authority to impose controls on transactions and freeze assets under US jurisdiction. Sanctions may involve the co-operation of allies.

OFAC director John Smith said the US Treasury will continue to target armed groups like the LRA and its support networks that rely on the global ivory trade and wildlife trafficking to finance their violent campaigns.

“The US government will not tolerate actions of those who finance destabilising activities in Central Africa, and we appreciate the co-operation of the governments of Sudan and Uganda to degrade the threat posed by LRA,” he said.

Mr Lukwang’s sanctioning is due to acting as an intelligence officer, overseeing supply logistics for LRA leader Joseph Kony’s team, which maintains command and control over three other LRA groups composed of his most trusted personnel. 

Mr Lukwang has coerced civilians to provide him information on military forces in the area, and provided Kony and other LRA commanders intelligence reports. He has also run the day-to-day operations of Kony’s LRA group.

Ivory broker

He also acted as the LRA’s ivory broker, in charge of selling or trading tusks for US dollars, Sudanese pounds, food, weapons and ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.

“Joseph Kony entrusted Lukwang with the location of hidden tusk caches and used Lukwang and Ali Kony [Joseph’s son] to deal with Darfur-area traders who purchased Lord’s Resistance Army trafficked ivory,” said OFAC.

Mr Hatari is the alleged primary supplier of ammunition, mines, weapons, food, supplies and other goods to the LRA.

He owns five shops in Songo market in the disputed region of Kafia Kingi, and has traded with LRA since at least 2013.

“Hatari buys regularly from the Lord’s Resistance Army, has sold or traded ivory from the LRA at the Songo Market, and has promised to trade anything the LRA wants for ivory,” said OFAC.
In May 2015, Mr Lukwang, Ali Kony, and a third LRA commander met with Mr Hatari and other merchants to purchase supplies and plan additional trades. Mr Lukwang translated for the LRA and merchants to trade ivory for supplies. 

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