The M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo are accusing government forces of selling guns to elephant poachers.
The rebels, who have been fighting the Kinshasa government since April last year, say that the poachers have intensified their hunt for Ivory due to the availability of guns they buy at a giveaway price from the government soldiers.
M23 spokesperson Colonel Vianney Kazarama told URN on phone from the rebel base in Bunagana that they have information linking government forces to poaching. He says through their intelligence and from the poachers they have arrested, they have established that the government forces who are near the rebel territory are selling off ammunitions to get money for upkeep.
The DRC government could not be reached by our reporter for a comment on the matter.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the population of elephants in eastern Congo has fallen by about 50% over the past decade due to poaching and conflicts in the region. An estimated 17,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2011 alone.
DRC is among eight countries heavily implicated in the ivory trade. In March this year, a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) conference issued a warning to the eight countries that they have until July 2014 to reduce the trade in ivory or face sanctions. The other countries are Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania among others.
An October 2012 report by UN Office of Humanitarian Coordination Affairs said more than 475,000 people had been internally displaced across Oriental, North and South Kivu provinces. The report added that more than 50,000 people had taken refuge in neighboring Uganda and another 25,000 in Rwanda following the crisis.
Presently, the rebels and the Congolese government are involved in peace talks in Uganda under the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The negotiation is intended to review the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 23 March 2009, a date the rebels coined to get their name, M23.