Desmond Davies, London Bureau
London, June 5, GNA – The conflicts in South Sudan and Darfur have over the years saw a massive increase in the levels of illicit weapons in East Africa that are threatening regional security, a Sudanese source in Nairobi has said.
“The proliferation of the illegal trade in arms and smuggling of these weapons have been encouraging cross-border attacks that are threatening the stability of human societies,” the source told Ghana News Agency an added that the situation was hampering humanitarian assistance in the region.
A Security Council briefing earlier this year by the former head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, pointed out that despite a significant decrease in armed conflict in the Darfur region, civilians remained exposed to violence and criminality, while long-term comprehensive solutions to address the needs of the region’s 2.6 million displaced persons remained elusive.
According to the source, the decrease in violence was a result of the Sudanese government’s military successes against armed movements and efforts to curb inter-communal violence.
However, civilians remained under threat and the situation had been further exacerbated by the widespread proliferation of weapons.
It was not just the Darfur conflict that had contributed to that, the source said, noting that the chaos in South Sudan and Libya was also contributing to the problem.
“These operations are managed through organised and professional global networks,” the source told the GNA.
“Most of these operations are financed by local organised crime networks, which are linked to international networks,” it added.
Groups that have been accused of being involved in arms smuggling include the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Army led by Abdel Wahid M Nour and the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Arko Minawi.
“But there is another aspect of funding, which involves some intelligence agencies that are funding gangs to bring arms to some governments and insurgent groups on the continent,” the source told the GNA
The Sudanese National Security and Intelligence Service has been at the forefront in the fight to reduce arms proliferation in East Africa.
It reported recently that between 2012 and 2017 it carried out over 300 operations against arms smugglers and the cases handed over to the police.
Out of these, there were convictions in 186 cases and those found guilty were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five years to life.
The Sudanese government is now calling for regional cooperation to combat cross-border arms smuggling, and better monitoring of the movement of money and arms that fuels illicit weapons trade.
But, as former UN Peacekeeping head Ladsous noted, the various fighting groups are not willing to reach agreement that will bring peace to the region.
“The linchpin of the process and future political talks – an agreement on the cessation of hostilities and humanitarian assistance – remained stalled due to persistent disagreement between the parties,” in particular on the modalities for the disclosure of armed movement locations in Darfur, the release of prisoners and the role of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur in future negotiations.