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Uganda ac­cused of de­fy­ing an EU arms em­bargo on South Su­dan

The East African - - FRONT PAGE - By AL­LAN OLINGO The East african

Uganda de­fied a Eu­ro­pean Union arms em­bargo and pur­chased arms and am­mu­ni­tion from at least three EU mem­bers — Bul­garia, Ro­ma­nia and Slo­vakia — that were then trans­ferred to South Su­dan’s mil­i­tary and armed al­lies in Su­dan be­fore the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil im­posed an arms em­bargo on Juba in July this year.

This is part of the find­ings of a study by Lon­don-based Con­flict Ar­ma­ment Re­search (CAR), re­leased on Thurs­day, which raises ques­tions about Uganda’s sup­port for the Juba ad­min­is­tra­tion even as it pro­motes it­self as a “im­par­tial ne­go­tia­tor” in the five-year con­flict.

South Su­dan’s war­ring sides signed a peace agree­ment in Septem­ber in Ad­dis to end a five-year civil war that has killed nearly 400,000 peo­ple, after pre­vi­ous peace agree­ments col­lapsed.

The re­port de­tails how mil­i­tary equip­ment reached all sides of the South Su­dan con­flict from 2014 through the in­ter­me­di­a­tion of neigh­bour­ing states, net­works of bro­kers and in­ter­me­di­aries, via air and land.

“South Su­dan’s im­me­di­ate neigh­bours have been the main con­duits, and some­times spon­sors, of weapon sup­plies to all sides in the con­flict,” says the re­port.

“These cross-bor­der sup­plies have in some cases in­cluded weapons, am­mu­ni­tion and air­craft law­fully ex­ported to South Su­dan’s neigh­bours from China, the Eu­ro­pean Union, and the United States.”

There is no sug­ges­tion that the ex­port­ing coun­tries were aware of the pos­si­ble di­ver­sion of their ma­te­rial to South Su­dan, or that they were com­plicit in the di­ver­sion, the re­port says.

“None­the­less, these re­trans­fers may have breached end-use or non-re­trans­fer com­mit­ments made to ex­porters as a prior con­di­tion of sale.”

Eu­ro­pean and US arms trans­fers to South Su­dan’s neigh­bours have in­volved a wider in­ter­na­tional cir­cle of Eu­ro­pean, Is­raeli and US in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies, who have ei­ther been un­wit­ting sup­pli­ers of the South Su­dan con­flict, while in other cases, have li­aised di­rectly with se­nior na­tional army, the Su­dan Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (SPLA), and the main op­po­si­tion forces, the Spla-in-op­po­si­tion (SPLA-IO) to sup­ply weapons and re­lated equip­ment via South Su­dan’s neigh­bours.

“This re­port pro­vides the first pub­lic ev­i­dence of di­rect li­ai­son be­tween these com­mer­cial sup­pli­ers and the par­ties to the con­flict. Such ac­tiv­i­ties may in some cases fall un­der Eu­ro­pean Union and US arms con­trol mech­a­nisms — no­tably the long­stand­ing EU em­bar­goes on Su­dan and South Su­dan, and ex­trater­ri­to­rial di­men­sions of US arms con­trol laws. It paints a foren­sic pic­ture of how pro­hi­bi­tions on arms trans­fers to the war­ring par­ties have failed,” said Con­flict Ar­ma­ment Re­search’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor James Beva.

Although there was no UN arms em­bargo be­tween 2013 and mid this year, some of the mil­i­tary ma­teriel trans­ferred from Uganda to South Su­dan — in po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tion of non-re­trans­fer and en­duse re­stric­tions — was ex­ported to Uganda by states, in­clud­ing EU mem­ber states, that had al­ready im­posed re­gional or uni­lat­eral pro­hi­bi­tions on arms sup­plies to South Su­dan.

The SPLA and SPLA-IO have each re­lied on air as­sets to de­liver weapons and per­son­nel to the con­flict’s ma­jor op­er­a­tional the­atres. The SPLA, in par­tic­u­lar, has used for­eign com­mer­cial lo­gis­tics providers to do so, in­clud­ing oil firms who use their lo­gis­tics lines to move weapons within the con­flict-torn coun­try.

The EU has be­gun to put diplo­matic pres­sure on at least one of these sup­pli­ers through the state where the com­pany and its air­craft are reg­is­tered. Un­der the new UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil em­bargo, other coun­tries may sim­i­larly be able to in­crease diplo­matic pres­sure and scru­tiny on lo­gis­tics providers and com­mer­cial air as­sets op­er­at­ing in South Su­dan.

A net­work of US and Ugan­dan com­pa­nies — con­trolled by British, Is­raeli, Ugan­dan, and US na­tion­als — pro­cured a mil­i­tary jet from the United States and an Aus­trian-made sur­veil­lance air­craft.

“These air­craft en­tered into SPLA ser­vice dur­ing 2015 and 2016 with nei­ther the orig­i­nal sup­plier com­pa­nies, nor the US or Aus­trian gov­ern­ments, be­ing aware that the air­craft could be re­trans­ferred to South Su­dan. How­ever, has ob­tained doc­u­men­ta­tion in­di­cat­ing that at least one of the com­pa­nies in the Us–ugan­dan net­work that pro­cured the air­craft was in di­rect com­mer­cial con­tact with the South Su­danese gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing the sup­ply of at least one of these air­craft to the SPLA, along with train­ing, crew and tech­ni­cal sup­port,” the re­port says.

A US firm, Ya­masec, is ac­cused of aid­ing the pur­chase of the air­craft in the US and us­ing the cover of the Uganda mil­i­tary to trans­fer two air­craft to South Su­dan’s mil­i­tary, vi­o­lat­ing the non-re­trans­fer con­di­tions un­der the US arms ex­port con­trols.

The mil­i­tary jet’s pre­vi­ous pri­vate owner in the US told that Ya­masec USA Llc took re­spon­si­bil­ity for ob­tain­ing a US De­part­ment of Com­merce dual-use ex­port li­cence, but the US State De­part­ment de­nied ever is­su­ing such a li­cence.

“The trans­fer of the air­craft from Uganda to South Su­dan was not un­law­ful at that time, as no

UN em­bargo was in ef­fect. Since this air­craft was orig­i­nally ex­ported from the United States to Uganda, how­ever, its re-ex­port to South Su­dan may have vi­o­lated non-re­trans­fer con­di­tions un­der US arms ex­port con­trols — as­sum­ing that it did in­deed re­ceive a US li­cence for its ex­port to Uganda,” the re­port said.

The re­port also shows that Riek Machar’s SPLA-IO of­fi­cials sought to ob­tain their own avi­a­tion ca­pa­bil­ity, us­ing a Kenyan reg­is­tered com­pany, but it flopped. In early 2016, a se­nior SPLA-IO politi­cian and ad­viser to Mr Machar en­tered into ne­go­ti­a­tions with a US lawyer and a So­mali-us ci­ti­zen to pur­chase a se­cond-hand Fokker F27 Mk 50 air­craft, through a Kenyan avi­a­tion firm, for $4 mil­lion.

“A draft pur­chase agree­ment and draft air­craft op­er­a­tion agree­ment, both drawn up by the US lawyer and So­mali-us ci­ti­zen and dated Oc­to­ber 2015, list the air­craft’s seller as Brighton Free­dom Air. This com­pany was newly reg­is­tered in Kenya in Au­gust 2015 as a sub­sidiary of Brighton Ven­tures Llc, a com­pany based in the US state of Mary­land. The episode is in­dica­tive of the range of in­ter­na­tional ac­tors from which the SPLA-IO has at­tempted, largely un­suc­cess­fully, to ac­quire both mil­i­tary equip­ment and dual-use items such as air­craft,” the re­port said, adding that this at­tempt to pro­cure an air­craft was not the first time that SPLA-IO fig­ures had reached out to wider in­ter­na­tional pro­cure­ment net­works.

Be­tween 2014 and 2015, Uganda, a key US se­cu­rity ally in the re­gion, im­ported Bul­gar­ian weapons that found their way into the South Su­dan mil­i­tary, be­com­ing com­plicit in the di­ver­sion of am­mu­ni­tion.

Mike Lewis, head of re­gional op­er­a­tions for CAR, said that South Su­dan ar­ranged for Uganda to is­sue end-user cer­tifi­cates, which are es­sen­tial for an in­ter­na­tional arms trans­fer.

“This was just to make it look like the weapons were meant for the Ugan­dan army use yet, in a real sense, they were headed to Juba,” Mr Lewis said.

Ugan­dan mil­i­tary spokesman, Brig Richard Karemire said they are yet to see the re­port, but they “sup­port the peace process” in South Su­dan.

China has also been named in the re­port, given that its am­mu­ni­tion is by far the most preva­lent among all sides in the civil war.

Pic­ture: File

South Su­danese demon­strate in Nairobi de­mand­ing ar­rest of their lead­ers sup­port­ing the war while hid­ing in Nairobi.

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