Uganda rubbishes report on arms for South Sudan

The Government has slammed a report of a UK-based investigative organisation, accusing Uganda of violating the European Union (EU) restrictions to supply weapons and ammunition to warring factions in South Sudan. The report indicates that Uganda has been involved in the transfer of weapons, contained in the so-called, end-user certificates, that are intended to ensure weapons are used by the countries they are originally sent to.

“The Government has openly provided both arms and troops to assist the SPLA’s military efforts since the start of the conflict in December  2013. During the first weeks of the conflict, the Uganda People’s Defence Force deployed two infantry battalions and Mi-24 attack helicopters to South Sudan,” the report reads in part.

“Uganda has also served as the transit country for at least three Mi-24V attack helicopters procured (lawfully) by the Government of South Sudan, which Ukraine exported by air in disassembled form between April and July 2015 for reassembly in Entebbe (given the absence of appropriate technical facilities in Juba).”

Fighting broke out in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar clashed, sparking unrest. Government defended the deployment of troops in the country, saying it was intended to protect Uganda’s interests, safely repatriate citizens and secure vital installations at the invitation of the Juba government.

The UK firm states in the report that although there was no UN arms embargo at the time, some of the military material retransferred from Uganda to South Sudan likely violated nonretransfer and end-use restrictions, which do not allow countries to sell or transfer the supplies. The arms monitoring group also accuses Kenya of being a conduit of two large shipments of weapons from China, including 27 million rounds of small-calibre ammunition, rockets, grenades, missiles, pistols and assault rifles.

Yesterday, the deputy executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, Col. Shaban Bantariza, described the allegations about Uganda’s involvement in arms supply to South Sudan as “unfounded”. “Uganda is vital in the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. We are strategically positioned and interested in South Sudan and, we are the greatest recipients of refugees from Sudan,” he said. “We cannot, therefore, be interested in earning from or accentuating a conflict, that we have helped to end. Whatever they (authors) call their report is null and void, and stale.”

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Lukwago Joseph grew up in a newspaper family, and rumor has it that instead of playing the guitar in his infancy, his parents put a reporter’s notebook and a pen next to him shortly after he turned born eight years. Before becoming editor of UGANDANZ, Lukwago was a parliament news editor for WBS TV. He joined UGANDANZ in July 2018, A few months after the company launched. Lukwago also spent five years as a freelance reporter, where he covered reporting for the highest bidder, intelligence, foreign policy, and Ugandan police. Lukwago graduated from Makerere University in 2008 with a B.A. in Journalism and worked on his college newspaper.