The international competition to gain footholds of influence throughout Africa have unintended consequences – we know this. Often, those consequences mean the exacerbation of already-existing conflicts, and the tracing of blood back to the hands of governments who reside among the world’s most powerful decisionmakers.
A recent report highlights how the supply of international arms to South Sudan – by China and European nations specifically – have escalated an already gruesome conflict with no end on the horizon. London-based Conflict Armament Research group issued the report after four years of investigation into how African neighbors bordering South Sudan have willfully circumvented international embargoes to provide arms to forces on both sides in the conflict, surely at a hefty markup.
The report examines the export of arms from several nations, detailing how shipments of varying forms of weaponry from the likes of China, Israel, the United States, Bulgaria, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Armenia have ultimately made their way to both sides in the South Sudanese Civil War.
It’s a saddening narrative, considering that the nation of South Sudan, which only became a nation in 2011, has long-strayed from initial optimism that peace would reign in the region for any sustained period. It is not a comforting notion to absorb: that the world’s youngest nation – the equivalent of a toddler – has already seen its future marred by bloody internal conflict, like a young child exposed to the grimmest forms of domestic violence before it ever had a shot at experiencing any true semblance of normalcy.
To think that the international world is somehow playing a role – intentional or not – in further dimming the future prospects of a nation once-determined to turn to Western influence as a guiding light upon its national path, is even more depressing. But this is the case.
For context, the United Nations placed an international arms embargo on shipments to South Sudan in July 2018. The findings of the report can be taken as an indictment of the effectiveness of U.N.-imposed sanctions, to be sure. But these embargoes are only effective to the extent that international players, and especially those with direct trading ties to those involved in the South Sudanese war effort, are willing to eschew profits for the intangible morality of playing a part in deescalating the conflict. Clearly, there are several nations not willing to make that tradeoff.
‘South Sudan’s immediate neighbours have been the main conduits, and sometimes sponsors, of weapon supplies to all sides in the conflict. 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.’ (Conflict Armament Research)
The findings of the report suggest that the exporting nations haven’t been aware that their arms would eventually make their way into the hands of South Sudanese combatants when they sent them. They do, however, suggest that those on the receiving end of such arms sales may have willfully ignored end-use or non-retransfer commitments made as a condition of the sale when they re-sold the arms to South Sudanese forces.
More damning to the international community is findings that, in some cases, representatives of the broader circle of arms sales – individuals hailing from the US, Europe, and Israel, among others – have in some cases interacted directly with representatives of South Sudanese government and rebel groups, knowingly relying upon South Sudan’s neighbors to circumvent restrictions imposed by the arms embargo.
‘European and US arms transfers to South Sudan’s neighbours have involved a wider international circle of European, Israeli, and US individuals and companies… they have liaised directly with senior representatives of South Sudan’s 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.’
Essentially, the report states that in some cases, international arms sellers hailing from Western nations might not have been aware that their guns, planes, and other munitions would end up contributing to the violence tearing apart South Sudan. But, the report also states unequivocally that, in other cases, the international arms sellers knew for a fact that they would be contributing to the bloodshed.
While we tend to know that this is the dirty business that is inherent to arms sales – there has to be some level of conflict for sales to be necessary – such a clear connection between lead dogs in the international community and the South Sudanese Civil War, especially in light of the U.N. embargo, is a bombshell.
With the international community so clearly uncommitted to seeing peace in South Sudan, and the nation in the throes of war, how can the notion of peace be taken seriously by the average world citizen? This report is a slap in the face for those who truly, albeit naively, dedicate themselves to the realization of world peace.