A key broker of a deal to end South Sudan’s civil war diverted European weapons to South Sudan’s military despite an EU arms embargo, a report said yesterday.
It also asks how a US military jet ended up deployed in South Sudan in possible contravention of arms export controls.
The London-based Conflict Armament Research report raises questions about Uganda’s support for South Sudan’s government, even as it promotes itself as a neutral negotiator in one of Africa’s deadliest conflicts.
South Sudan’s warring sides in September signed a peace agreement to end a five-year civil war that has killed nearly 400,000 people.
Uganda bought arms and ammunition from at least three EU members — Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia — that were diverted to South Sudan’s military and armed allies in Sudan, the report said.
With the Bulgarian weapons, “South Sudan arranged for Uganda to issue end-user certificates ... to make it look like these weapons were for the use of the Ugandan armed forces, when in fact they were always destined for South Sudan,” Conflict Armament Research head of regional operations Mike Lewis said.
It is less clear whether Uganda’s government, a key US security ally in the region, was complicit in the diversion of ammunition shipped to it from Romania and Slovakia in 2015, Lewis said.
Some of the ammunition was discovered with Sudan-based militias allied with South Sudan’s military.
Uganda’s government did not reply to evidence the organization sent to it, Lewis said.
South Sudanese Minister of Information and Broadcasting Michael Makuei Lueth rejected the findings as fake.
“We don’t even have money to buy arms and now we need money for the peace agreement,” he said. “How can they pass an arms embargo and expect others to abide by it? If the EU has passed an arms embargo that’s up to them, but we in African countries, we’re not a member of the EU and we’re not bound by it.”
There is no suggestion the exporting countries were complicit in, or even aware of, the diversion, the report said.
Sudan in the past quietly supplied Chinese-made ammunition to South Sudan’s armed opposition, the report added.
The report also describes how a network of “jointly owned Ugandan and US companies — controlled by British, Israeli, Ugandan and US nationals — procured a military jet from the US and an Austrian-made surveillance aircraft, which one of these companies delivered into service with [South Sudan’s military] in 2015 and 2016 respectively.”
Based on interviews and commercial documents, the report found that the company, Yamasec, transferred both aircraft to South Sudan’s military.
The US military jet, after being used by Uganda’s air force, was deployed in South Sudan in 2016, overflying armed opposition targets along with attack helicopters.
The military jet’s previous private owner in the US told Conflict Armament Research that Yamasec “took responsibility for obtaining a US Department of Commerce dual-use export license,” the report said.
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