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Darfur arms supply

Susan Houlton
February 10, 2012

Sudan has been buying weapons from China, Russia and Belarus to supply its army and militia in Darfur despite a UN arms embargo, says a new report from Amnesty International.

militia on a patrol in South Darfur
Darfur militia on a patrol in South DarfurImage: picture alliance/dpa

Much of the violence and fighting in Darfur took place with Chinese, Russian and Belarusian arms acquired in recent years, Amnesty International says. Last year, more than 70,000 people were displaced from Darfur as a result of ethnic violence against the non-Arab Zaghawa community by Sudanese government forces and government-backed militia.

According to Amnesty, the Darfur case highlights the need for an effective arms trade treaty that would compel government to stop arms transfers where there is a substantial risk they would be involved in serious rights violations or war crimes.

In 2004, the UN imposed an arms embargo on Sudan for Darfur. More than 300,000 people have died since the conflict began in 2003, according to the UN.  Despite presenting clear evidence against countries selling arms to Sudan, Amnesty's new report is not expected to have much of an impact.

If anything, the report will put pressure on western countries to ensure that Sudan does not use weapons in conflict areas, said Siemon Wezeman, a researcher at the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Next week, the UN Security Council is due to consider the existing sanctions on Sudan, and talks on a future Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will resume. An effective treaty would force governments to stop transfers when there is a risk that arms will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations, Amnesty says.

"When it comes to places like Sudan, you would find more use with a UN embargo," Wezeman told DW.

But this is unlikely, he thinks, noting that both China and Russia had vetoed a potential arms embargo on Syria even though Arab countries supported it.

An oil barrel against the flags of Sudan and South Sudan
Sudanese oil is an important bargaining chipImage: Fotolia-Dark Vectorangel/DW

The oil factor

China has been selling weapons to Sudan in exchange for access to vast oil resources. However, the value of China's friendship with Khartoum may diminish in the near future. South Sudan took three quarters of the oil resources upon independence from Sudan in July 2011, and now accounts for around five percent of China's oil imports. However, pipeline and export facilities are controlled by Khartoum.

The current oil crisis in South Sudan may be the game changer. The country halted its oil production following the confiscation of 1.7 million barrels of oil by Sudan. The newly independent country had not paid Khartoum for using its pipeline and refinery.

"The Chinese may have to re-evaluate their relations with both Sudan and South Sudan," Wezeman said.

Author: Chiponda Chimbelu (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Susan Houlton / rm

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