A United Nations (UN) panel has found evidence of “well-established networks” of arms suppliers in Israel and Eastern Europe that are fueling the ongoing civil war in South Sudan.
A UN panel of experts said in a confidential report to the Security Council on Thursday that arms suppliers from Bulgaria and Israel were fueling the war in South Sudan by supplying weapons to the rebels in the African country, the world’s youngest.
“This evidence nevertheless illustrates the well-established networks through which weapons procurement is coordinated from suppliers in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and then transferred through middlemen in eastern Africa to South Sudan,” read the report, which was obtained by AFP.
According to the panel, arms deals dating back to 2014 or earlier involve Israeli and Bulgarian firms.
The panel said forces loyal to rebel leader Reik Machar recently turned up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo armed with Israeli-made automatic rifles that were part of a stock that had been sold to Uganda in 2007.
A Bulgarian firm worked through an intermediary to deliver a shipment of 4,000 assault rifles and small arms ammunition to Uganda in July 2014, which was later transferred to South Sudan, according to the UN panel.
In addition, the UN experts are examining an arms trafficking network based in Europe that received an “extensive list of small arms, munitions and light weapons” for purchasing from the rebels in 2014.
The UN Security Council has threatened to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan over the continued fighting in the country. The council has said it will impose an arms embargo if outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon determines that the government of President Salva Kiir in Juba is blocking the deployment of a UN-mandated regional force.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous had earlier called on the council to move quickly to cut off the arms flow.
“I think an arms embargo should happen now and that’s even very late,” Ladsous said on Tuesday, adding, “The rainy season is coming to a close and that has frequently been the time of the year when people go back to military operations.”
South Sudan gained independence in July 2011, but descended into war in December 2013 after President Kiir accused Machar, his vice president-turned-rebel leader, of plotting a coup to grab power.
Numerous international attempts to reach a truce between the warring sides have failed.
South Sudan has experienced a new wave of conflict since July 8, when gunfire erupted near the state house in the capital, Juba, as Kiir and Machar were holding a meeting. More than 300 people were killed in the clashes.