The government of South Sudan is spending its oil revenue on weapons, even as the country descends into a famine largely caused by Juba’s military operations, according to a confidential United Nations report.
The report by a panel of experts, whose findings were dismissed by South Sudan’s goverment, calls for an arms embargo on the country – a measure rejected by the Security Council during a vote in December.
“Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often with the coordination of neighbouring countries,” said the 48-page report, seen by the AFP and Reuters news agencies on Friday.
The experts found a “preponderance of evidence (that) shows continued procurement of weapons by the leadership in Juba” for the army, the security services, militias and other “associated forces”.
South Sudan derives 97 percent of its budget revenue from oil sales. From late March to late October 2016, oil revenues totalled about $243m, according to calculations from the panel.
At least half, “and likely substantially more” , of the country’s budget expenditures are devoted to security including arms purchases, the report said.
The government of President Salva Kiir continued to make arms deals as a famine was declared in parts of Unity state, where at least 100,000 people are dying of starvation, the experts said.
“The bulk of evidence suggests that the famine in Unity state has resulted from protracted conflict and, in particular, the cumulative toll of repeated military operations undertaken by the government in southern Unity beginning in 2014,” said the report.
Later on Friday, South Sudan’s government rejected the allegations in the report.
“We have not bought arms for the last of two to three years,” government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
“We have rights to buy arms for self-protection or self-defence … So this idea of the UN saying the government of South Sudan doesn’t care about its people and they are fan of buying arms all the time is not correct,” he said.
The annual report of the sanctions monitors to the 15-member security council comes ahead of a ministerial meeting of the body on South Sudan next Thursday, which is due to be chaired by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
In December, the Security Council failed to adopt a US-drafted resolution to impose an arms embargo and further sanctions on South Sudan despite warnings by UN officials of a possible genocide.
After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and 3.5 million people displaced.
An upsurge in fighting since July has devastated food production in areas that had been stable for farmers, such as the Equatorial region, considered the country’s breadbasket.