Over recent years there have been allegations that Al-Shabaab, the radical Somali Islamist group, is deriving considerable funds from elephant poaching and the ivory trade. Researchers from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) have examined the evidence and expose this as myth in a new study: ‘Illusion of Complicity.” There is little evidence of any ivory transiting Somalia, and most comes from elephants in Central Tanzania and from the Tanzania-Mozambique border, far removed from Al-Shabaab territory. In fact the trade is managed by organised crime groups, brokers and corrupt government. The trade is enabled by weak legislation and sporadic enforcement by security agencies.
The findings are important to the Cocaine Route Programme in two respects. Single illicit commodity traders who have opened up a transit corridors are likely to diversify, and use the network to carry other substances, including drugs, firearms and perhaps human beings. The second point comes as a warning in that the alarmist claims of terrorist involvement in ivory trading distracts the attention of law enforcement and other control agencies while at the same time creating a screen behind which the real perpetrators can carry on.
The full document can be downloaded here.