The past year has seen attention directed, both in policy discourse and the media, towards the implication of Central African non-state armed groups in poaching and ivory trafficking. Engaging with both mainstream political economy analyses and work on the “geographies of resource wars,” this paper turns to the case of ivory as a “conflict resource,” through the case study of the Lord’s Resistance Army. It begins by outlining the contextual specificities and conditions of access, before assessing the compatibility of the resource’s biophysical, spatial and material characteristics with the needs of regional armed groups and the LRA in particular. Though the direction of causality is difficult to untangle, the paper finds that poaching and the trade in ivory by armed groups in Central Africa appears to incur low opportunity costs for relatively high potential gains. Moreover, that ivory qualifies as a “conflict resource” under Le Billon’s (2008) definition in the extent to which it is likely to be implicated in the duration of conflict in the region, both financing and benefitting from a context of insecurity. Future research would benefit from more accessible and robust data; interesting avenues would include an evaluation of the effects of the increasing militarization of poaching strategies - including shoot-to-kill policies - and the potential of igniting grievance-based conflict.

Author Bio(s)

Natasha White is a research assistant at the Graduate Institute, Geneva’s Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding. She holds an MA in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute, Geneva and a first class MSc (Honours) from the University of Edinburgh. Previously, she worked at Chatham House and Control Risks, and has undertaken field research in central and east Africa. Her research interests include political ecology, natural resources and conflict, and conservation-related violence. Her latest publications have been in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies and the Journal of Political Ecology (forthcoming). Contact: njwhite100@gmail.com


armed groups, Central Africa, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), conflict resource, elephant poaching, ivory economy, Lord’s Resistance Army, political economy

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