South Sudan buying weapons instead of food

Sunday March 19 2017

South Sudan

Women carry food in gunny bags after visiting an aid distribution centre in Ngop in South Sudan's Unity State on March 10, 2017. Many have been displaced by the war. PHOTO | ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN | AFP 

By CHEGE MBITIRU
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It seems when it comes to perverted priorities the Government of the Republic of South Sudan scores high.

On Friday, AFP, the French news agency, cited a United Nations confidential report saying “Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often in coordination with neighbouring countries”.

The agency went on, saying UN experts found a “preponderance of evidence” showing “continued procurement of weapons by the leadership in Juba” for the army, the security services, militias, and “associated forces”.

According to the report, South Sudan gets 97 per cent of its budgeted revenue from forward petroleum sales.

Translated, that means whatever the price at any time. Cash on delivery would make sense.

That aside, the UN 48-page report says that from late March to October last year, oil revenue totalled $243 million (Ksh24.5bn), and crude oil business hasn’t been the most lucrative business in the last few years. Anyway, where did South Sudan’s money go?

Well, according to the report, the government continued to sign arms deals. Authorities in Juba, a town on the banks of River Nile that’s South Sudan’s capital, will argue it has a rebellion. Actually what it has is a power struggle.

The protagonists are President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar. It’s on record the latter has a long history of destabilising situations that never suited him.

On their ego trip, the two have fallen into the trap of turning the country into a tribal — majority Dinka and the number two Nuer — slaughter field.

What’s happening to the numerically few ethnic groups needs no explanation.

ACTIVISTS' SUGGESTION

In war, none of the parties can claim innocence. The degree of guilt, however, can be ascertained.

Numerous reports by UN teams, human rights organisation and just displaced South Sudanese trudging from disaster to disaster apportion lots of blame to the Kiir’s internationally recognized government.

The result, other than the obvious — deaths — in conflict: famine for the survivors. Amidst this, the UN report says the government continued to sign arms deals.

For example, it cites the Unity State saying evidence 100,000 people were dying — over which period remains unclear — and a million near starvation.

Well, body count in conflict is tricky. It suffices one corpse is too many. Again, in war, fortunes are made and combatants have collaborators out of the conflict zone.

While the international community, as usual, will rally to alleviate the famine, it can do more.

In an opinion piece The Washington Post published early this month, actor Gorge Clooney and many hats-wearer activist John Prendergast had a suggestion: “The international community needs to help make war costlier than peace for the government and rebel leaders and their international collaborators.”

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