By Emmanuel Koro recently Geneva, Switzerland
The US$600 million Western animal rights groups “industry” is widely believed to have used its financial power to bribe weak East and West African countries to vote against SADC countries’ proposal to start international trade in ivory last week.
The three elephant over-populated SADC countries - Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe - submitted a joint proposal to trade in their thousands of tonnes of stockpiled ivory but were incredibly defeated by a 101 (81%) no-votes, with only 22 votes (19%) supporting their proposal.
Not accepted 81% to 19% - that’s the smoking gun. It shows that animal rights groups had long rigged the votes that were cast at the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), in Geneva, Switzerland.
How can three elephant overpopulated countries that contribute more than 70% of the world’s total elephant population receive19% of the total vote in their bid to trade in ivory is the question that defeated governments and communities were asking after the vote.
Zambia also lost heavily in its amended bid to have its elephant population down-listed from CITES Appendix I to II for only non-commercial hunting trophies and hides and leather from elephants killed in elephant-human conflict, without trade in raw ivory. Not accepted, 82% versus 18% accepted.
Observers and CITES CoP18 said that the heavy losses collectively suffered by SADC countries are suspicious and would forever get contested. They dismissed the UN CITES voting process as “tainted rigged and not free and fair”.
Reacting to SADC countries’ somewhat unprecedented heavy losses in a CITES voting process Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Onkokame Mokaila said, “I am clearly flabbergasted, disgusted, demoralised, incensed and we totally have no faith in CITES whatsoever.”
He said that he also noted with surprise that countries such as Angola had voted against SADC countries’ ivory trade bid despite the good meeting that Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi held with the Angolan President João Lourenço to convince them to do “what’s important”.
President Masisi also held a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta for similar reasons but Mokaila said that he was not at liberty to publicly disclose the outcome of that meeting.
“Fraud, rigged elections, sold votes bought by the Europeans,” said Mokaila, describing the stolen election overseen by the UN CITES. He declined to disclose the collective action that SADC countries would take following this rigged CITES election result.
“We have 90 days to do something that’s got to be done and that is what to be done then let’s consider it,” said Mokaila, amid speculations of a possible SADC CITES pullout.
Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, warned CITES member countries that the real threat to elephants are rural communities that don’t benefit and suffer the costs of living with wildlife through crop destruction and killing of their loved ones.
He concluded that failure to reward communities for conservation success as CITES member countries are doing through a vote against ivory trade was an unfortunate and dangerous recipe that forces communities to have negative attitudes towards wildlife.
Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality industry, Munesu Munodawafa, said they knew CITES as an organisation where decisions were based on science but the result on elephant overpopulated SADC countries suggested that CITES decisions were no longer based on science.
“Decisions in CITES are now being made on the whims of people with financial resources,” he said, referring to Western animal rights groups and countries that are widely viewed to have used money to entice ‘weak’ African nations to vote against international trade in the stockpiled ivory of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – harvested from viable and more-than-enough elephant populations.
“One typical example is that we command more than 70% of the world’s elephant population but are being denied the rights to trade in our stockpiled ivory by 32 countries with one of them not having a single elephant.”
President of Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, Emmanuel Fundira, said that the region faced a bleak future, but SADC countries had demonstrated that they were capable of sustainable management of their elephant population.
“I don’t want to think we should give up,” said Fundira. “There is a possibility for SADC to declare this CITES election null and void. As you can see, there is quite a lot of consultations that’s going to happen now in terms of the way forward. There is a proposal at the moment to review CITES processes because there is a deviation from CITES process and vote rigging should be one of them.”
The chairman of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Moses Chinhengo, said that SADC countries needed to meet and decide on the way forward.
“Whether SADC stays or pulls out of CITES is going to be a government decision,” he said. “Personally, there is nothing to persuade me that SADC should remain in an organisation that acts against our interests.”
Speaking in support of ivory trade, representatives of the South African government urged CITES to reward and not punish SADC countries for their conservation success. They expressed shock and disappointment at the vote against SADC countries’ bid to trade in ivory by East and West African countries that have been formed into anti-sustainable use African Elephant Coalition forces; through the financial support of Western forces.
The SADC rural communities that share the land with wildlife, including elephants, but continue to be denied benefits helplessly watched their countries were losing an ivory trade bid that was going to bring them elephant conservation and rural development benefits.
“CITES for me is a rotten organisation and the UN needs to look into this rigged voting process,” said a representative of the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO), Maxi Louis.
“They claim to be a scientific organisation that basis its decisions on science but they are not even looking at science. I have lost faith in this institution and I would like our government to know that we are wasting our time and taxpayers money by remaining in CITES.”
A Botswana rural communities representative and a member of the Ngamiland Council of NGOs, Gakemotho Satau, said that the stolen vote made him lose trust in CITES.
“My proposal is that SADC countries should just denounce or pullout of CITES because the voting is not based on science. I am not happy with the voting process and its outcome.”
Roger Lubilo of Zambia said that the CITES vote against SADC countries’ proposals to trade in ivory “is rigging of the highest order”.
“The East and West African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria have been bought by Western countries and animal rights groups – they are hired guns,” he said.
“CITES is the worst ‘animal’ and I don’t even want to be associated with it. If my President is listening he needs to hold an emergency cabinet meeting with all the representatives of the Zambian government who are here and then consult the people whether our membership to CITES is worth it or not. For me being in CITES is wasting time.”
Another Zambian community member, Bupe Banda, said that the CITES voting process was not based on scientific evidence and “was corrupt”.
“I don’t see the importance of us remaining members of this foolish UN arrangement,” she said.
“If my President asks me what we should do I will suggest that Zambia should just pullout of CITES.”
Observers who spoke on conditions of anonymity said that the never-seen-before and sharply divided vote against the ivory trade has once again confirmed that African countries continue to be divided by Western forces, including animal rights groups in similar ways that the continent was partitioned into Western countries’ economic and political colonies the1884-85 Berlin Conference.
At Berlin they used military force but at CITES CoP18 they used dollar power. The interests are still the same; to divide and manipulate Africa for financial gain.
The vote against ivory will bring Western animal rights groups massive financial donations from gullible Western people to whom they have always successfully lied to for the past 44 years, that when you ban trade you save elephants and other wild species. The truth is that when they ban trade they ironically create demand for ivory, resulting in an increase in elephant poaching (a crisis that they selfishly create), in order to continue benefiting from African elephants by again asking for donations.
Therefore, the pattern of exploitation from Berlin 1884 to Geneva CITES CoP18 is clear. At Berlin they stole our land and other resources and at Geneva CITES CoP18, they stole our votes, in order to turn our elephants into their moneymaking machines.
Observers say that the Western animal rights groups’ fundraising “industry” makes a collective annual earning of US$600 million dollars. They raise the funds in the name of the African elephant and other iconic species such as the rhino that they claim to want to save, with not even a cent going to rural Southern Africa for wildlife conservation.
In this lucrative scandal from which they profit, the raised funds continue to be used to support Western animal groups staff’s extremely salaries and lifestyles. All SADC rural communities attending CoP18 confirmed that they have never received elephant conservation money from Western animal rights and that these groups had never set foot in their villages to assess the elephant situation.
“This is the little-known truth that all Western citizens that think its progressive to donate money to animal rights should be told,” said a Botswana rural resident Gakemotho Satau.
“When they get told the truth they can then discontinue donating any money to Western animal rights groups because it’s not progressive as they use the money to oppress, exploit and in turn limit elephant conservation and rural development in SADC.”
In her official CITES CoP18 opening remarks, the CITES Secretary General Ivonne Higguero expressed optimism that CITES would facilitate the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. Ironically, the rigged vote against SADC countries’ ivory trade will further trap SADC countries in rural poverty as money.
SADC rural communities representatives lamented that without trade in ivory, they had no hope in achieving SDGs by 2030, as the CITES Secretariat hopes to do. Without trade in ivory, the African elephant cannot pay for its upkeep and protection but Southern African countries are still obliged to look after it. This forces SADC governments to divert their ever scarce financial resources to elephant conservation and not human development. They then use for elephant conservation, treasury money that was originally set aside for poverty alleviation, provision of clean drinking water and road construction as well as school and hospital construction in rural areas.
- Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.