NEW NATION: Sudan’s arms race unraveled

Posted on | april 13, 2011 | No Comments

There is no doubt that both North and Southern Sudanese are poles apart in terms of cultural socialization, religious orientation and political ideology. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA signed in Nairobi ended two decades of bloody hostilities and set in motion a long process of peace, nation building and a calendar for self determination. Events in the Sudan indicate that whilst the peace process is lacerated with teething challenges between the two major partners in the Sudan peace process (Juba and Khartoum), hostilities are still simmering.

In September 2009 SPLA Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen James Hoth Mai, said that there was a 50-50 chance of resumption of war with the North. No one contradicted or even tried to reprimand the SPLA’s CGS. Indeed statements of this nature appear to indicate inner frustrations.

In January 2010, 10 NGOs who have a presence in the Sudan issued a Joint Briefing Paper, dubbed “Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan” expressing fears of a frosty future and going on to paint a gloomy picture: “Popular confidence in the CPA has been badly undermined by the recent upsurge in insecurity, combined with the slow delivery of expected ‘peace dividends’– essential services such as water and health care, livelihood opportunities, and infrastructure. After decades of war and neglect, it is not surprising that donors and the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) have struggled to deliver development.”

The Joint NGO Briefing also pours scorn on the United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNMIS): “The UN Mission in Sudan was deployed in 2005 with the primary objective of supporting the CPA implementation. Its headquarters are in Khartoum, with a regional base in Juba, and a number of smaller bases across southern Sudan and the Three Areas. With an annual budget of almost $960m, UNMIS has deployed 9,275 military personnel. For most of the mission’s life, however, the UN Security Council has not prioritised protecting civilians in Sudan; the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) has not provided enough support for protection activities; and the UNMIS in-country leadership has neglected civilian protection.

There are several reasons for this: Southern Sudan’s precarious security environment was not well understood; UNMIS was concentrating on CPA monitoring; and a view existed among mission personnel that the Security Council added the civilian protection component to the mandate as an afterthought. As a result, UNMIS has been slow to grapple with its mandated protection responsibilities and to use its resources to respond to a changing context.

At the field level, awareness or understanding of the mission’s civilian protection responsibilities is limited or non-existent, with some UNMIS personnel entirely unaware of the Chapter VII component of the mandate, or believing that protecting civilians from ‘tribal violence’ or the Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA) falls outside of the mission mandate and is a distraction from its core business of supporting CPA implementation…”

It is largely known that while the CPA was a binding document of goodwill for the antagonists, the South has vehemently come out complaining of getting a raw deal from the North. It is this inaction in the full implementation of the CPA and the undercurrents purveying the Sudan that has made keen observers of the region pretty much worried that there is a likelihood of more flare-ups.

Answering to the whims of their suspicions both parties have now recorded massive arms build-ups, simply put, an arms race, in the run-up to the all-important referendum.

“The demand for small arms and light weapons—and some larger conventional weapons systems— among government forces, insurgents, and unaligned groups in the country have grown considerably since the outbreak of hostilities in Darfur in late 2002 and the signing of the CPA in 2005.

Arms imports and internal transfers continue in violation of the UN arms embargo and other multilateral restrictions designed to prevent weapons from reaching certain Sudanese actors and areas—and despite the presence of more than 25,000 international peace-keepers tasked with promoting peace, the Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) brief on the Sudan notes in its December 2009 briefing.

The HSBA acknowledges that the arms race in the Sudan has been going on even with the existence of three international arms sanctions on the Sudan namely the CPA, the EU arms embargo on Sudan and the UN arms embargo on Darfur.

“As of late 2009 the optimism that followed the signing of the 2005 CPA between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has been overshadowed by increasing violations, mutual distrust and provocation, and the possibility of a return to armed conflict, whether localised or regional. Both the NCP and the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) continue to acquire small arms and light weapons destined for their armed forces (as well as allied and proxy groups), in what is taking on the character of an arms race, despite three legal instruments designed to limit flows. All three regimes have been violated since 2005,” the HSBA report dubbed Sudan Brief, notes.

The major players in the Sudan arms stock-piling race are China, Iran, Belarus, Hong Kong, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Russian Federation and Kuwait. Kenya, Ethiopia and Ukraine are also named as suppliers of conventional weapons mostly to the Juba government. According to the UN register between 2004 and 2008, Belarus and the Russian Federation supplied to the Sudan 28 attack helicopters, nine MiG 29S’, 11 SU25 Fighter aircraft, and 10 armoured personnel carriers.

In his paper “Skirting the Law: Sudan’s Post-CPA Arms Flows” Mike Lewis outlines some of the reasons for arms supplies to the Khartoum government by both China and Iran:“Chinese state-led investment, particularly in Sudanese oil development, has arguably provided both the resources and motivation for Chinese arms sales to Sudan, in addition to China’s diplomatic defence of Sudan’s sovereignty. Iranian military assistance, conversely, appears to be grounded partly in ideological support since 1989. Arms supplies have been accompanied by ideological and military training, particularly for Sudan’s Islamist-inspired paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF), undertaken in part by senior military advisers from Iran’s Pasdaran (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) from 1992 onwards.”

In addition to the external supplies, Khartoum also maintains an elaborate Military Industrial Complex (MIC) of five operational lines namely Elshaheed Ibrahim Shamseldeen Complex producing tanks and armoured vehicles; Safaat Aviation Complex producing avionics and assembling military aircraft; Yarmouk Industrial Complex solely for munitions; Alshagara Industrial Complex which produces small arms and mortar ammunition and Alzargaa Engineering Complex which is specialised in the production of electronics and electro-optical military equipment. In the last two years, Khartoum has often chest-thumped of it’s MICs prowess.

These undercurrents are among the reasons why keen observers of the Sudan are fidgety. At the moment everyone is grappling with the possibility of a fifty fourth state in the continent and a return to war. The reluctance by both Juba and Khartoum to translate the CPA and allow its benefits to trickle to the grassroots is making the future scenario of the Sudan unpleasant.

AUTHOR: Wanjohi Kabukuru
E-MAIL: wanjohi [at]


Leave a Reply

Page 1 of 11