Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ukrainian Tank Ship Release Spotlights Sudan Arms Race

NAIROBI 10 February 2009 Sapa-dpa


A Ukrainian ship laden with tanks and other armaments freed by
Somali pirates last week is expected to arrive in the Kenyan port of
Mombasa on Thursday, but controversy still surrounds the destination of its military cargo.

The MV Faina was released on Thursday, following months of
complicated negotiations, after a ransom believed to be around 3.5
million dollars was paid.

But with the first stage of the drama over, all eyes are now turning
to the arrival of the vessel and its cargo of 33 T-72 tanks, munitions
and small arms in Kenya.

Kenya's government say that the arms shipment is bound for its own

However, the ship's manifest seemed to suggest the tanks and weapons were bound for south Sudan, part of an arms buildup that analysts fear could be used to resume hostilities between north and south Sudan.

If true, the allegations of receiving weapons for south Sudan would
be embarrassing for Kenya, which backed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan's civil war.

With such accusations flying around, the crew of the MV Faina is
bound to be met by a media scrum when the ship docks in Mombasa.

Kenya appears to be keenly aware of this, and government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the unloading of the arms shipment would be done in a transparent manner.

"The weapons will be unloaded and transported to a military base,"
he said in a statement. "Media will be allowed to cover the arrival and
movement of the Kenyan arsenal."

But despite Kenya's protestations of innocence and south Sudan's
claims it does not have the resources to rearm, strong suspicions
linger that the weapons will ultimately end up in the hands of the
Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The peace agreement handed the mainly Christian and animist south Sudan the right to autonomy from the Arab north after two decades of civil war in which almost 2 million people died.

As part of the peace deal, both north and south Sudan are forbidden
from buying military equipment without the approval of a joint
North-South military board.

However, both sides have faced accusations of buying weapons in a
clandestine manner.

UK security analysts Jane's Information Group last year said that as
many as 100 tanks may already have been delivered to south Sudan
through Kenya, while other weapons are believed to have been flown in from Ethiopia.

A Kenyan maritime official found himself in hot water with his
government last year after he said that arms shipments had come through Mombasa on their way to south Sudan on several occasions.

However, the north has not kicked up as big a stink over the arms
deliveries as may have been expected.

Khartoum may be keeping quiet as it faces accusations of defying an
international arms embargo and acquiring Chinese weapons for use in the restive western province of Darfur, where up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced by almost six years of fighting.

Observers, however, are nervous about the arms buildup, given that
tension between north and south continues.

Last May, the simmering tension broke out into gun battles in the
contested region of Abyei, which holds significant oil reserves.

Dozens died and tens of thousands fled the fierce battles, which
analyst Roger Winter from the Enough Project said left Abyei in ruins.

Both sides pulled back from the brink, but the borders in the oil
region are yet to be defined and there are fears this dispute could be
the spark that reignites the civil war.

Analysts are warning that Sudan has reached a critical juncture,
with upcoming elections and a 2011 referendum that south Sudan will hold on secession from the north both contributing to the chances of renewed conflict.

"A breakdown in the CPA would have devastating effects for all
Sudan," UK-based think tank Chatham House warned in January. "Many decades of mismanaged and unequal development have left this country facing a serious risk of fragmentation"

"The CPA's proposals for a fairer division of wealth and power could
stop this fragmentation," it added. "If they are not implemented, Sudan could see a replication of the crisis in Darfur across the country."

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