Militaries in north and south Sudan are engaged in an arms race that risks plunging the nation back into civil war, a study said.
The north and south fought a two-decade civil war that ended with a 2005 peace deal.
But relations remain tense and the agreement faces important tests soon national elections next year then a referendum on southern independence in 2011.
On top of that, a surge of ethnic clashes in the south have killed more than 1200 people this year, stoking fears of more insecurity in the remote and underdeveloped region.
“With ongoing violence in Southern Sudan and Darfur, and mounting tensions between the northern and southern governments, persisting arms flows should be a cause for great concern in the international community,” Eric Berman, managing director of the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, said in a statement.
Southern officials accuse their former civil war foes from the north of arming rival tribal militia to destabilise their region before the election and referendum. Khartoum denies it.
Some 2 million people died and 4 million fled between 1983 and 2005 as the Muslim north and mostly Christian south fought over differences in ideology, ethnicity and religion.
The report said China and Iran continued to be the main source of weapons that were adding to turmoil in the country.
“Arms supplied from these countries clearly help to drive human insecurity as evidenced by their recovery from state and non-state forces fighting in Darfur and Southern Sudan.”
Much of the recent violence has taken place in Jonglei, Unity and Lakes states, which are on what the south sees as its border with the north if voters choose independence in 2011.
The report said the southern military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), had been stockpiling light and heavy weapons, mostly from Ukraine, for the past two years.
It said 33 Soviet-era T-72 tanks and BM-21 multiple rocket launch systems on board a Ukrainian cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates for four months in September 2008 had been destined for southern Sudan via Kenya. Kenya’s government denied it and said the tanks were for its military.
“Satellite imagery subsequently confirmed the presence of T-72-size vehicles in these locations (in southern Sudan) during 2009,” the Smalls Arms Survey said.
In July, trade journal Jane’s Defence Weekly published satellite pictures it said showed an SPLA compound northeast of the southern capital Juba containing what appeared to be T-72 tanks, but said it could not prove they were from the ship.
Jane’s said the Kenyan army had promised to show reporters the tanks were still there, but had so far not done that.
The rules of the 2005 accord allow both the SPLA and northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) to replenish arms, as long as they have the approval of a north-south Joint Defence Board.
Adding to the instability, the Small Arms Survey report said the UN peacekeeping mission in the western Darfur region, UNAMID, lacked the procedures and force protection capacity to monitor and properly secure even its own weapons.
“The mission now constitutes a growing source of stolen weaponry for non-state groups on all sides in Darfur,” it said, adding that the overall situation needed urgent attention.
“In light of the (2005) agreement’s possible collapse, the scale of recent SPLA and SAF arms acquisitions is worthy of sustained and high-level diplomatic attention,” it said.
Pic: Sudan SPLA members