There are strong indications that Sudan has supplied the South Sudanese rebel forces with weapons by air, according to the London-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group.
Relations between Sudan and South Sudan have been tense after the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, and worsened in December 2013 when war broke out between adherents of President Salva Kiir and those of his vice-president, Riek Machar.
Juba has accused Khartoum more than once of supporting Machar's Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-iO). Sudanese authorities have repeatedly denied the allegations.
CAR, however, reports in ‘Weapons and Ammunition Airdropped to SPLA-iO Forces in South Sudan’, that the military materiel seized by the South Sudanese army from rebels in Pigi county, Jonglei state, in November 2014, is “identical to previously documented arms and ammunition airdropped by Sudan to rebels in South Sudan in 2012, which provides strong indication of new, direct supplies from Sudan to SPLA-iO operations”.
Pigi county lies south of Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state, that has been the theatre of heavy fighting since the war broke out. In March 2014, the South Sudanese army secured Malakal and surrounding areas, and remained in full control until mid-May 2015, when the SPLM-iO launched a new series of attacks in the oil-rich state.
‘Made in Sudan’
The seized materiel included more than 300 rounds of small-calibre ammunition, two 57 mm M307 A1 HEAT rounds, and six 82 mm rounds for B-10 recoilless rifles in their original tubes. This materiel is distinct from weapons and ammunition deployed by the South Sudanese army. Army officers in Malakal confirmed to the CAR researchers that, prior to its capture of Malakal, they had no weapons of these types in their possession.
“70 percent of the 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition documented is Sudanese-manufactured, with the majority produced in 2014,” the CAR researchers found during their research at the South Sudanese army base in Malakal in December last year.
“The types of materiel airdropped to support SPLM-iO operations in Jonglei state, mirror weapon types that Sudan has supplied, to support armed or insurgent forces elsewhere [..] including in Darfur and the Central African Republic.
“The cartridges match those airdropped by Khartoum to Séléka rebels who overthrew the government in the Central African Republic in 2013. [..] Chinese 12.7 x 108 mm ammunition documented is identical to ammunition supplied by Khartoum to South Sudanese rebel forces in 2012, prior to the current conflict,” the report reads.
The weapons and ammunition documented display clear evidence of damage sustained during airdrops to the SPLM-iO rebels, which took place in September and October 2014, according to eyewitnesses. It was also reported that, throughout the month of December 2014, aircraft dropped additional military equipment to SPLM-iO units in the Upper Nile and Jonglei states.
“Analysis of the damage indicates that many items have been crushed by a heavy impact. There is no indication (such as burning or scorching) to suggest the damage is the result of explosive blast effects.
“Rather, the small arms cartridges and tubes containing rockets concerned appear to have suffered lateral impact damage, which is consistent with either free-fall dropping from an aircraft or very low altitude parachute dropping,” the researchers concluded.
7.62 x 39 mm ammunition, visibly damaged, consistent with sudden impact as a result of airdropping, Malakal, 11 December 2014 (CAR)