An investigation into weapons supplies shows that some of the firearms used in the conflict in South Sudan came from the European Union.
The EU has been rallying behind the South Sudan’s state and nation-building efforts through significant diplomatic, political, humanitarian and developmental support.
UN estimates show that one third of the South Sudanese population has been displaced, either internally or in the neighboring countries.
It says around 6.1 million people, 59% of the population, face alarming levels of food insecurity due to the conflict.
When violence intensified in July 2014, the European Union announced a tough new line against those it accused of failing to stop the fighting.
Its leaders said the measures were part of wider EU efforts to stop violence and avoid further instability in the region and designed to strengthen a long-standing arms embargo.
But the investigation report said a few days later, a plane from Bulgaria arrived at Entebbe in Uganda with 4,000 assault rifles and close to three million rounds of ammunition.
“The SPLA, and non-state forces allied with the SPLA in neighboring Sudan, have acquired small arms and ammunition that at least two EU member states—Bulgaria and the Slovak Republic—have exported to Uganda since 2014, despite longstanding EU arms embargoes on Sudan and South Sudan,” the finding read.
“External weapon supplies to the SPLA-IO have been shrinking, following the group’s failed attempts to establish more diverse international procurement networks in 2014.”
The 4-year probe was conducted by the Conflict Armament Research, a UK-based investigative organization that tracks the supply of conventional weapons, ammunition, and related military materiel into conflict-affected areas.
“This equipment ranges from small-calibre ammunition to anti-tank guided weapons, man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), and main battle tanks.’
According to the investigation; “physical weaponry, government correspondence, commercial documents, flight plans, and other evidence show how the South Sudanese government arranged for its regional ally, Uganda, to provide end-user certificates for arms shipped by air from within the EU.”
The weapons were then funneled into South Sudan, without the knowledge of the supplier states, and in violation of the EU arms embargo.
“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, “ it said.
The group’s field investigations confirmed the use, on South Sudan’s battlefields of ammunition exported to Uganda from three EU Member States since 2014.
While the 105-page report found no evidence that European suppliers or their governments knew their arms were headed for South Sudan, the research highlights the apparent weakness of international arms embargoes.
The European Union is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.
These include United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark.