Joseph Kony, the leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, and Kurtz, the ivory trader in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, have much in common. Both led murderous armies of fanatically devoted followers deep in the African Congo. Both collected vast quantities of ivory and shipped it off to wealthy industrialized nations for use in a luxury goods.
The current slaughter of elephants by Kony's forces forms a small portion of what may be the largest extermination of elephants since the days of Kurtz and the great white hunters of classical European colonialism, reported the New York Times. Now, it is the booming economy of China that fuels the new horror in the heart of Africa.
Kony, unlike Kurtz, is real and uses the profits from selling illegal ivory to the Chinese to fuel his rampage in central Africa. Kony, who was made infamous earlier this year by a mock political ad, employs tactics worthy of his insane fictional predecessor including enslaving and brainwashing children, murdering entire families, mutilation and gang rape to establish himself as a demigod.
Psychopathic rebel leaders like Kony are joined in the slaughter of human and elephant alike by the Darfur-decimating janajaweed militia of Sudan, the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab of Somalia and even the armed forces of some African nations, according to the New York Times.
Ivory has replaced blood diamonds as a major source of cash for criminal armies. International organized crime syndicates serve as the middle men. Money flows through these mafias and into the pockets of Africa's worst murders, rapists and poachers largely because of the growth of the luxury good hungry middle and upper classes of China.
"China is the epicenter of demand," Robert Hormats, a senior State Department official, told the New York Times. "Without the demand from China, this would all but dry up."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been pushing the Chinese government to take action to staunch the flow of blood ivory out of Africa, according to Hormats.
The horrors in central Africa show little signs of slowing, no matter what politicians may be doing. Poaching is at its highest level since detailed record began and 2011 broke the record for most illegal ivory ever seized, at 38.8 tons or the equivalent of 4,000 elephants. And that's just what was found by law enforcement.
"Exterminate all the brutes!" Conrad's Kutz wrote as he descended into madness. In the end, it may be that Kurtz was referring to the elephants.
Elephant killed By poachers, Voi area, Kenya (Ina96, Wikimedia Commons)