JUBA, South Sudan – A United Nations panel of experts has found violations of the arms embargo imposed on South Sudan, reporting to the Security Council that there are “alarming levels” of sexual violence, hunger and human rights abuses in the war-scarred country.
According to AFP, the panel’s 29-page report was the first since the arms embargo was narrowly adopted by the Security Council in July, under strong pressure from the United States.
The interim report by the panel tasked with monitoring sanctions covered the two-month period of September and October and included travel in South Sudan as well as to France, Kenya, Uganda and the U.S.
The panel said it was too early to assess the full impact of the embargo, which seeks to cut off the flow of weapons after nearly five years of brutal war in South Sudan.
The report said “a number of violations have been noted by the panel,” which is also investigating foreign private security firms providing training in Juba to the national police and the army.
South Sudan’s military says the panel report is “fake” and a “wild rumor.”
South Sudan People’s Defense Force spokesperson Major General Lul Ruai Koang denied the allegations.
“We have been training our own soldiers and the first training was in Mapel NCUs [Non-Commissioned Officers] academy where we train our NCU using our own instructors, and we have not hired any private company to come and train our soldiers,” he told The Defense Post.
Koang said the only training from a private company was before the 2013 violence and the trainers were hired by the Americans.
“Before the war broke out, we had some advisors from the U.S who were attached to our general headquarters to give us advisory roles on how the army should be transformed and that was purely done by the Americans but when the war broke out all that was frozen” Koang said.
The expert panel noted that Sudan had deployed troops to protect oil fields in Unity State, while Uganda sent forces to South Sudan, notably in Central and Eastern Equatoria states, which Koang also denied.
South Sudan arms embargo
The arms embargo bans military assistance as well as training.
The panel report said it was investigating “other allegations of transport of weapons into South Sudan, in violation of the arms embargo,” without giving further details.
“To the best of my knowledge, we have not made any new purchase of any military equipment although we have the sovereign right to equip the national army with all the armament required to protect the territorial integrity of this country from both internal and external aggression,” Koang said.
Koang says such U.N. reports must give details on who is providing South Sudan with the ammunition and the type of firearms entering the country.
“They could have specified the kind of equipment we have purchased; are they vehicles, are they weaponry system.”
A recent Sentry report says more than 300,000 people were killed in the conflict. At least 4 million South Sudanese were forced to flee their homes, either to live in refugee camps of neighboring countries or settlements for internally displaced people, including U.N.-run sites in Juba, Malakal and Wau.
Despite a peace deal signed in September, the U.N. experts said they observed “alarming levels of sexual and gender-based violence, food insecurity and grave human rights abuses, including against children.”
The panel described the latest agreement as “a significant moment in efforts to bring an end to the conflict in South Sudan,” noting that the leaders of Uganda and Sudan had stepped up their involvement in a regional peace push led by Ethiopia.
The experts cautioned that there were “serious challenges” to the deal, pointing to the myriad of armed groups apparently ignoring commitments from their leaders.
Part of the report focused on the use of sales of teak timber in the Central and Western Equatoria states to finance rebel groups, generating about $10-11 million per year.
“Competition for South Sudan’s natural resources is still central to the conflict dynamic at both the local and national level,” the report said.
The interim report by the panel tasked with monitoring sanctions covered the two-month period of September and October and included travel to France, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda and the United States.
The Security Council is scheduled to discuss South Sudan on Friday.
The world’s youngest nation will host the South Sudan Oil & Power 2018 conference in the capital Juba on November 21-22. China National Petroleum Corp, Oil & Natural Gas Corp of India and Petronas of Malaysia are the main operators of oil blocks in South Sudan, which has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest reserves and is counting on increased production to help fund the peace agreement.