Friday

18th Aug 2017

EU wary over Ukraine weapons in South Sudan

  • Some 1 million people in South Sudan face starvation (Photo: UNited Nations Photo)

A lanky South Sudanese soldier steps forward amid the throng of refugees at a settlement camp in northern Uganda and presents himself as Duku Eduwar.

At 30-years old, Eduwar, like many others, had trekked on foot through the bush for days to flee an ongoing war fuelled by weapons partly supplied by Ukraine and by middle men based in EU states.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Eduwar says he had been forced to work for the rebel group, but managed his escape a year later before turning up at Imvepi, a sprawling settlement where buses full of refugees arrive every 20 minutes to be registered.

"I came here to get something to eat," he told EUobserver earlier this month.

Nearby, women and children were queuing for food amid the intense heat of the sun, dust, and the loud popping sounds of a choking generator.

An estimated 100,000 people are dying of starvation in South Sudan, with a further 1 million near to starvation.

Most have lost everything in a war that erupted in December 2013, when former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, was dismissed by South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, a Dinka.

The war has broader implications for the EU, which is working to address the root causes of migration in an effort to stem the flows from north Africa into Italy.

The Ukraine connection

But a $42.8 million ($33m) contract for Mi-24 attack helicopters - between forces loyal to the South Sudanese president and Ukraine - might complicate that task.

It has also cast a long shadow over Kiev's commitment to a 2014 EU arms embargo on South Sudan, and poses tricky questions for an EU that is edging Ukraine away from Russia as part of a wider plan of Western integration.

Kiev had already been supplying the South Sudanese government forces with weapons prior to the outbreak of fighting in 2013, purchased from the proceeds of oil revenues.

But a UN Security Council investigation revealed that Ukraine had sold the helicopters to Juba long after the schisms between Kiir and Machar had descended into bloody chaos.

Motor Sich, a Ukrainian company, provided the technical support and had teams on the ground servicing the choppers up until at least early 2016.

"They have been seen to be used against civilian targets, they have been reportedly been used too against an ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) hospital," the lead investigator behind the UN panel told EUobserver last week on Thursday (18 May).

Reports have also emerged that Uganda is running weapons, and supplied two L-39 ground attack jet fighters - possibly contracted through Ukraine - to the Juba forces.

An aircraft manifest - taken from a flight that took off from Ukraine to Uganda earlier this year - indicated that it contained two L-39 jets and engines provided by Musket OU, a company based in Tallinn, Estonia.

Such jets had already been spotted in late June and early July last year in South Sudan, when the war suddenly escalated and triggered a massive exodus of refugees into neighbouring countries.

"These jets are likely being operated out of Uganda, near an airbase in northern Uganda called Gulu," noted the UN investigator.

Among the pilots flying combat missions from Juba, named in the UN probe, is a Hungarian national, who had also been training the Ugandan forces.

Denial and defence

A spokesperson from Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has denied the reports, telling Ugandan daily newspaper New Vision over the weekend that the country is an "extremely law abiding international player".

A line of defence had also emerged from the EU's delegation in Kampala.

The EU's top envoy to country, ambassador Kristian Schmidt, said Uganda had a legitimate interest in sending troops to Juba - to stabilise its northern neighbour.

"Uganda is not breaking any laws, if it is true, that it is a transit country for arms to the [South Sudan] government," Schimdt told reporters in early May.

"We have to remember that there is no arms embargo in place," he said of Uganda, following the UN report.

In Brussels, a European Commission spokesperson said they had also been assured that Ukraine had ceased supplying weapons to South Sudan since mid-2016.

"The EU will continue to apply its own arms embargo and to urge the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo," wrote the spokesperson in an email.

But broader questions from the European Parliament remain. The institution had adopted a resolution on South Sudan just last week.

The resolution, a non-binding demand, says that brokers based in EU member states are facilitating the weapons trade to the war-torn country.

"The EU needs to work for a total arms embargo on the country, with strict controls to stop arms exports from European countries to South Sudan," centre-right Portugese MEP Jose Inacio told the plenary session in the EU parliament last week.

EU steps up global counter-terrorism drive

EU foreign ministers vowed to increase the number of projects and financial support in different parts of the world ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, where leaders will focus on security and defence.

Spain prepares to stop Catalan vote

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has said he is ready call an extraordinary cabinet meeting if Catalonia's authorities table a bill to organise the vote on 1 October.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy