Arms in Sudan
A new publication by the Small Arms Survey, “Supply and Demand: Arms flows and holdings in Sudan,” provides the most up-to-date assessments of the military capacities of Sudan’s contending parties.
The briefing documents the ongoing supplies of weaponry to the governments in Khartoum and Juba. Among the major supplies to the Sudan Government are Belarus, China, Iran and Russia. The major supplier to the SPLA is Ukraine, via Kenya. It estimates that despite an estimated 470,000 arms in the hands of the Sudan Government security forces, the majority of small arms–a further 1.24 million in the north and 720,000 in the south–are in the hands of private citizens. The Small Arms Survey finds that the UN embargo on weapons supplies to Darfur is ineffective, and that European arms suppliers circumvent the EU prohibition on arms supplies to Sudan by providing weapons indirectly.
The briefing also provides estimates for the numerical size of the various armed groups in Sudan.
The estimate of 44 helicopters exceeds the figures provided in the Military Balance by nearly half again, and excludes transport models. It is certainly possible that the Sudanese government forces will attempt an air-mobile/air assault strategy against specific targets in the event of an outbreak of war, backed by ‘Fantan’ and ‘Frogfoot’ ground attack jets.
The SAS points to an arms race between the governments in Khartoum and Juba. This includes not only spending on military hardware but an expansion in the number of men on the defence and security payroll. Arms races are not necessarily a predictor of war, because it is logical for both Khartoum and Juba to build up forces to deter the other in the case of a major political dispute over the next couple of years. A rough symmetry in military capability is more likely to serve as a mutual deterrent.
However, there are other possible outcomes to such an arms race. It is notable that the majority of small arms are not in the possession of the regular forces. There are serious command and control questions in both north and south. As well as the Sudan Armed Forces, there are also the Popular Defence Forces, National Security, Central Reserve Police, Border Intelligence, and other paramilitaries, along with militia organized along tribal lines. One of the basic principles of effective deterrence is credible centralized control of the means of war on each side. It is not clear if such credible centralized control exists.
Another outcome of an arms race, in this case augmented by competition to pay for the allegiance of key groups, is that the security budget exceeds the capacity of the state and causes bankruptcy and breakdown. Where there is already imperfect command and control over diverse forces, this is a particularly dangerous scenario.
Why Sudanese army or security are piling up arms, Sudan was at war for 41 years of its 52 years of independence and the Sudanese army never won a war during that time. In the 90s the financial cost of the war was amount to more than 75% of the country GDP, Alex mentioned the increase numbers of regular army and other military forces that correct but at the same time that failed to restore law and order in the country, the areas of lawlessness in Sudan is now greater than ever in the north and south. The only things Sudanese army do well is breaking the law by ousting democratically elected government, and putting in its place most corrupt regimes. I think the country will be safer if we dissolve the army and use its budget for more development and promote social justice.
The blueprint – “How to Stop Arms to Sudan” – released by Human Rights First, sets out a three-stage strategy for the incoming administration to lead an effort to ensure that arms-supplying states halt their sales, as well as to use its voice and vote at the U.N. Security Council to enforce and strengthen the U.N. imposed Darfur arms embargo.
Hafiz Muhamed that the Sudanese problem is a ubiquitous one and it is not likely to be resolved in the nearest generation. A worrisome scenario is in fact mentioned by Alex; is the complex outcome of security breakdown in any areas be it South or North Sudan. In my view, the intensity of threat posed by small arms will not likely hurt North Sudan but hurt the South in the event South Sudan secedes. The intensity with which the kind of threat posed by the presence of small arms in the hands civilians in the South outweighs that of North Sudan because the spectrum has a versatile mix and amplified by historical facts.
Within its range of control, Khartoum has largely controlled the outcome of any eventful presence of danger, while South Sudan is not able to efficiently arrest security problems. Both parties have different perception of threat. Juba is so specific about its perception, (naturally one that eludes the exercise of appropriate response) and reacts to it in pre-CPA terms, a defensive posture. Khartoum on the other hand has both covert and overt methods to continue its irksome relationship with Juba as if they were at par in terms of military and political capability. What may cool down the situation is the presence of paramilitary organs aided by both governments. Khartoum is helping the LRA and some tribal militias in South Sudan continue unrest for Juba while the Juba is counting on the rebels of Darfur and the Messerya tribesmen to offset the threat posed by the LRA and the tribesmen in South Sudan.
Deny the arms manufacturers a lobby in Washington and perhaps our representatives would be forced to vote their conscience instead of their wallets and do the right thing concerning legislation on trade agreements and such.
According to the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls of the U.S. Department of State, American companies may not sell arms to the Government of Sudan. It may that some American firms skirt this prohibition by operating through subsidiaries outside the country, but considering what we know about Khartoum’s defense spending habits, such trade, if it does indeed exist, would be militarily insignificant. The SAF’s primary suppliers are the Chinese, Iranians, and former East Bloc nations.
In 2007 and 2008, the United States extended some support, which certainly includes non-lethal “defense articles” and related materials, to the Government of South Sudan. It is unclear whether that assistance includes the sale or transfer of small arms and light weapons, although it may. There is no indication that it includes sale or transfer of heavy weapons. A Presidential Determination of April 2007 referred to “… U.S. Government-funded transfers and commercial exports of defense articles and services necessary for an SSR program for the security sector of the Government of Southern Sudan, including support for: transformation of the Sudan Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army from a guerrilla force into a smaller, conventional force; the Sudan Peopleâ€™s Liberation Movement; a protective service detail, police service, intelligence, and other law enforcement entities of the Government of Southern Sudan; and private entities involved in the SSR program…” These programs are presumably ongoing at the present time. A State Department backgrounder on Sudan last updated in November 2009 indicates that the South continues to transition its military forces.