Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1264, (1 - 7 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Arming South Sudan

China and other countries, including Israel, are continuing to sell weapons to both sides in the conflict in South Sudan, writes Haytham Nuri

Al-Ahram Weekly

A UN report on South Sudan released on 21 August indicates that both sides in the almost two-year conflict in the country are continuing to receive weapons from abroad, despite earlier pledges not to do so.

According to the 55-page report, South Sudan, which became an independent nation in July 2011, is buying weapons from China and former Soviet republics, including the attack helicopter Mil Mi-24, which the government has been using to fire on rebel positions in the states of Upper Nile and Unity.

The national army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), is said to be using BTR-80 armoured troop carriers equipped with heavy-calibre machine guns. According to the Bloomberg news agency, China is providing South Sudan with a wide range of weapons, presumably to protect its extensive oil investments in the country.

The UN report was written by a panel of experts appointed by the Security Council to follow up on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2206 of 2015.

Hostilities erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir Mayardit, a member of the Dinka tribe, accused former vice-president Riek Machar, a member of the the Nuer, of attempting to stage a coup against him. Since then, tens of thousands of people have perished in the fighting in the country, more than one million have fled their homes, and two million are believed to be under imminent threat of famine.

According to the report, Israel is also providing the South Sudanese government with Galil ACE guns, an automatic rifle produced by the Israel Weapon Industries (IWI). The Galil ACE is believed to be the weapon of choice of security personnel protecting senior leaders and military commanders.

According to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Israeli companies have been doing business with Juba since late July 2011 in various fields, including health, agriculture, and infrastructure.

Another Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, notes that Israel needs to remain active in South Sudan in order to counter Iranian influence in neighbouring Sudan. However, in recent months Sudan has distanced itself from Iran and sided with Saudi Arabia in its war against the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Khartoum has closed down Iranian cultural centres in the country and has been taking other measures to stop what it claims has been Shiite proselytising.

Analysts say that Israel has been trying to establish security and military relations with various African countries for years. Despite the use of Israeli weapons in the South Sudanese conflict, the Juba-based government does not depend on Israel’s weapons alone, receiving less-costly supplies from Russia and China.

Beijing is one of Juba’s closest allies, having built 4,000 miles of roads and railway tracks in South Sudan and about 20 hydroelectric projects. China is also exploring for raw materials, especially oil and copper, in South Sudan and other African countries.

What makes the Chinese desirable partners in Africa is the fact that they desist from interfering in local politics, refrain from criticising human rights abuses, and have no particular interest in promoting democracy. China has no qualms about supplying a country experiencing civil war with weapons and military training.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Israel is the eleventh largest weapons exporter to sub-Saharan Africa, furnishing nearly two per cent of African exports.

But there is no evidence, the SIPRI says, that Israeli weapons have been a major factor in any of the ongoing conflicts in Africa.

In Chad, the government bought Israeli and non-Israeli weapons to use in the internal struggle in the country that broke out in 2005. In Uganda, the army used Israeli weapons to bombard positions held by the radical Christian outfit the Army of God in northern parts of the country.

Israel’s weapons exports to Africa totalled $318 million in 2014, according to Haaretz. These weapons went to over ten nations, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, and Uganda.

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