Pirate-seized arms were bound for SPLA?

The France-based Sudanese opposition website Sudan Tribune reports that the huge arms shipment seized by pirates off Somalia was not ultimately bound for the Kenyan government, as widespread reports had it—but for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). If true, this has grim implications for Sudan’s already shaky peace process. Adding to the mystery, the usually relibale Sudan Tribune website seems to be down at the moment. Fred Mukinda of Kenya’s Daily News offers this Oct. 6 report:

Website blew the whistle on arms
A France-based website blew the whistle on South Sudan’s importation of weapons through Kenya in contravention of a UN embargo in February.

Information posted on Sudan Tribune’s website in February showed that 50 tanks had arrived at the port of Mombasa and more cargo, including rocket launchers, artillery and an aircraft, would be delivered in the following months

Military stores
It is believed that the Ukrainian ship hijacked by pirates off the Somali coast 11 days ago was ferrying part of the weapons. The Sudan Tribune also said the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was stocking its military stores in violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005.

The ship’s owners have since revealed that the mv Faina, which was hijacked in the Indian Ocean, was carrying 33 Russian-made T-72 tanks and other heavy artillery, including rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, 23 anti-aircraft guns and ammunition.

But Kenyan officials maintain the cargo was for the Kenya Army.

The sender of the cargo, Ukrainian state-run arms trader Ukrspetseksport, has said the weapons were bought by Kenya’s Ministry of State for Defence.

In the current standoff, the Nation has learnt, the Government has dispatched 49 navy soldiers to join Russian and US naval ships that have surrounded the vessel under siege. The Kenyan troops moved in using three small boats and a bigger one, which military experts describe as a “fighting machine.”

The Nation has established that the seizure had put the Treasury on the spot. Information on the Ministry of State for Defence’s official website says submission for “procurement of major defence equipment” should be made to the “Treasury as usual to authorise restricted tendering.”

“The customer for the military hardware is the Defence ministry of Kenya. The supplies were carried out in line with the valid international norms of trading arms and military hardware,” according to the Ukrainian Observer, quoting an official of Ukrspetseksport company.

The seized military hardware has placed Kenya in an awkward position. The Government is perceived as helping arm Southern Sudan contrary to the spirit of CPA.

Kenya is a key sponsor of Sudan’s peace agreement and a member of CPA’s Assessment and Evaluation Commission.

The agreement between Sudan’s North and South ended the longest civil war on the continent and stipulates that both parties should not buy arms.

See our last posts on Somalia, Sudan and the Horn of Africa.