Israeli arms fuelling South Sudan violence

Israeli arms fuelling South Sudan violence
Tens of thousands have been killed, and more deaths are feared if an international arms smuggling ring is not shut down.
3 min read
21 October, 2016
Thousands of people have been killed in the ongoing violence [Getty]
"Well-established networks" of arms suppliers in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are fuelling the war in South Sudan, a UN panel of experts has found.

Israeli and Bulgarian firms are among those supplying weapons and ammunitions to warring factions in South Sudan, a confidential report to the Security Council said, according to AFP.

Rebel fighters loyal to Reik Machar recently appeared in the Republic of Congo armed with Israeli-made automatic rifles that were part of a stock sold to Uganda in 2007, the panel said.

The weapons were likely taken from South Sudanese government stocks either through battlefield capture or defections, said the report sent to the council last week.

The Israeli-made rifles were likely part of a larger group of weapons that was transferred to South Sudan from Uganda, it said.

The UN experts are now allegedly looking into an arms trafficking network based in Europe that received an "extensive list of small arms, munitions and light weapons" from the rebels in 2014, after receiving intelligence from Spain.

The deal which also involved a middleman from Senegal provided for shipments that were at least partially delivered, they said.

A Bulgarian firm delivered a shipment of small arms ammunition and 4,000 assault rifles to Uganda in July 2014, which were later transferred to South Sudan.

The firm, Bulgarian Industrial Engineering, worked through an intermediary in Uganda identified as Bosasy Logistics, whose chairman Valerii Copeichin is a Moldovan national.

The report said recent arms supplies were likely to have been made "through the same modality".

While the arms deals date back to 2014 or earlier, "this evidence nevertheless illustrates the well-established networks through which weapons procurement is coordinated from suppliers in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and then transferred through middlemen in eastern Africa to South Sudan," said the report.

On Tuesday, the UN pleaded with the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the war-torn country, which has witnessed a cycle of violence over the past few months - killing tens of thousands of people and driven 2.5 million from their homes.

"I think an arms embargo should happen now and that's even very late," peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said.

"The rainy season is coming to a close and that has frequently been the time of the year when people go back to military operations."

South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 after Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup.

Tens of thousands of people have died and more than 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in the nearly three-year war, which has been marked by appalling levels of rape and killings.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a letter to the council last week that Kiir's government was imposing "significant limitations" to the proposed new force.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda have offered to contribute troops, but the Juba government has yet to give its approval for the makeup of the force, which will be under the command of the UN mission in South Sudan.