South Sudan

Question & Answer: The call for an arms embargo against South Sudan

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With Geoffrey L. Duke, Secretariat Team Leader at South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms (SSANSA) and Elizabeth Ashamu Deng, South Sudan researcher at Amnesty International

Recent fighting in South Sudan’s Unity State between government troops and opposition forces has placed civilians at renewed risk and once again threatened the shaky cessation of hostilities agreement signed in January. Earlier this month members of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) delegation to South Sudan reportedly expressed alarm that the warring parties are still acquiring arms. Here,
Amnesty International’s Elizabeth Deng and Geoffrey L. Duke, of the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms explain why an arms embargo should be a priority.

- Why does there need to be an arms embargo on South Sudan?

The conflict in South Sudan that broke out on 15 December 2013 has been characterized by violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Both government and opposition forces have targeted civilians based on their ethnicity. They have used a range of conventional arms and military equipment to facilitate and commit killings of individuals seeking refuge in hospitals and places of worship and have attacked humanitarian workers.
Many of the killings have been carried out using small arms and light weapons which are in wide circulation in the country. Arms sent to the government forces have been diverted to the armed opposition. Additional shipments of arms are likely to fall into the hands of both parties to the conflict and be used to fuel further atrocities.

A comprehensive arms embargo would require every state to take all necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to South Sudan. If effectively implemented, such an embargo would help stop the flow of arms to government and opposition forces, and could play a role in preventing additional human rights and humanitarian law violations and abuses. Pending such an embargo, all states should immediately suspend international arms transfers to the warring parties and fighters allied to them until such arms no longer pose a substantial risk of being used to commit or facilitate serious abuses of human rights or war crimes.

- Where do these arms come from?

Arms have flowed into South Sudan from many countries. Over the past few years, large shipments of conventional weapons and munitions were imported from Ukraine via the port of Mombasa, Kenya.
Recently, Amnesty International confirmed that in June 2014, Chinese state-owned defence manufacturer NORINCO shipped over 1,000 tonnes of small arms and light weapons worth US$38 million to the Government of South Sudan. The shipment included rocket systems, thousands of automatic rifles and grenade launchers, 20,000 grenades, hundreds of pistols and machine guns, and several million rounds of ammunition. It also included 100 anti-tank guided weapons and 1,200 associated missiles. The shipment left China on 15 May 2014. It reached Mombasa, Kenya on 7 June and the cargo was unloaded three days later