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UN urges crack down on arms smuggling to Sudan

UN experts urge key governments to crack down on arms smuggling to Sudan

As weapons continue to enter western Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region while the Government also violates the arms embargo, a United Nations panel of sanctions experts has called on the authorities in neighbouring countries and others to crack down on unofficial shipments.

The four-member panel also recommends in its illustrated report that the Security Council extend and strengthen its embargo and consider designating individuals against whom the sanctions should be applied.

“It is clear that arms, especially small arms and ammunition, continue to enter Darfur from a number of countries and from other regions of the Sudan,” experts say in the report.

During its investigation, the Panel determined that since the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on all non-governmental groups in 2004, the armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) “have continued to receive arms, ammunition and/or equipment from Chad, Eritrea, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, non-governmental groups and other unknown sources.”

It cited reports, too, that the two groups receive financial, political and other material support from neighbouring countries, including Libya, Chad and Eritrea, but was unable to determine whether material support for Darfur from the three countries was official, or “the independent actions of Government officials.”

But the experts did assert that the Governments of Chad and Libya could do more to prevent the violations.

Moreover, “the Panel judges that the Government of Eritrea has provided, and probably continues to provide, arms, logistical support, military training and political support to both JEM and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). Training of JEM and SLA has reportedly occurred at a number of camps in Eritrea on the Eritrea-Sudan border.”

The southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) provided training and supplied arms and ammunition to SLM/A, but apparently stopped when it became obvious that its own negotiations on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Government would be finalized. Nonetheless, “there are credible allegations of continued low-level smuggling of weapons and ammunition from southern Sudan into Darfur.”

On the Government side, “troops with their weapons being withdrawn from southern Sudan in fulfilment of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are being transferred to Darfur,” the panel says.

In that regard, the African Union (AU) has reported suspicious, unannounced, night-time aircraft landings and departures at El-Fasher and Nyala airports, when they are officially closed and inaccessible to AU monitors, as well as suspicious activities at the airstrip of Tine, according to the report.

The Government of the Sudan has reintroduced at least six Mi-24 attack helicopters into Darfur and has used two of them at least once, it adds.

Meanwhile, the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMIS) has expressed concern that the Government recently imported certain white aircraft and vehicles into Darfur that could be mistaken for white transport belonging either to AMIS or to UN and other humanitarian agencies, the experts say.

The Panel of Experts was set up to help monitor the implementation of the arms embargo imposed by two Council resolutions; inform the Committee about individuals who impede the peace process, violate international law or are responsible for offensive military overflights: monitor the implementation of targeted individual financial and travel sanctions; and develop new recommendations to present to the Security Council.

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