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23.9.2021 : 20:18 : +0200


Business as Usual: Arms flows to Darfur 2009–12 — new HSBA Issue Brief

The Small Arms Survey’s Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan is pleased to announce the release of a new Issue BriefBusiness as Usual: Arms flows to Darfur 2009–12now available for download.

After nine years of rebellion, proxy arming, and shifting alignments between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and both Arab and non-Arab populations in the region, the Darfur conflict appears little closer to resolution than it did in 2003. Successive mediation efforts—in Abuja (2006), Tripoli (2007), and Doha (2009–12), among other initiatives—have not bridged the gaps between Khartoum and the multiplicity of Darfur armed opposition groups. In fact, although some parts of Darfur have become appreciably more peaceful, the last 18 months has witnessed an evolution of the conflict as a whole. Over this period, ground fighting and aerial bombardment reappeared across eastern Darfur, and sporadic airstrikes and fighting involving both regular Sudanese army units and tribal-based militias have spilled over South Darfur into the Western and Northern Bahr al Ghazal borderlands of South Sudan. At the same time, significant non-Arab groups have entered the conflict as part of the paramilitary Popular Defence Force (PDF) militias (al-difa al-shabi), while Darfur rebel groups have built connections to intra-Sudanese conflicts elsewhere, particularly in South Kordofan and elsewhere along the eastern part of the Sudan–South Sudan borderlands.

An essential enabling factor in the ongoing violence is the steady and demonstrable flow of military resources, especially small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, into Darfur despite international sanctions designed to prohibit this supply. It is clear that the UN arms embargo on Darfur has not had the intended effect on the ground.

This Issue Brief draws on fieldwork conducted in 2011–12 in Darfur, South Sudan, and South Kordofan, and on reports to the Sudan Committee of the UN Security Council by the UN Panel of Experts on the Sudan and their former members. It reviews arms supplies and arms use in Darfur since 2009, when the Small Arms Survey last reviewed Sudanese arms stocks and flows.
It finds that:

  • The primary types of weapons and munitions used on all sides of the conflict have remained consistent since 2009, with more recently manufactured versions of the same small arms and light weapons systems and ammunition types appearing through 2012. This confirms the view that arms initially supplied to SAF, in violation of the embargo, remain the major source of supply for all sides of the conflict.
  • SAF and allied militias in Darfur continue to acquire newly made Chinese-manufactured small arms and light weapons ammunition less than 12 months after manufacture.
  • Despite the ample evidence since 2008 that Chinese-origin weapons were being illegally retransferred into Darfur in violation of end-user undertakings and the UN embargo, the same supplier appears to have secured new contracts for arms supplies to Sudan in 2008 and 2010.
  • Familiar patterns of small arms and light weapons ammunition flows to Darfur have, since mid-2011, been replicated to SAF in Blue Nile and South Kordofan (Sudan) and to non-state armed groups in Greater Upper Nile (South Sudan), fuelling the conflicts in those areas. 
  • Empirical weapons identification techniques indicate that Sudanese Air Force assets stationed in Darfur may be directly responsible for attacks in South Sudan in 2011 and 2012, corroborating other evidence that fighting between SAF and Darfurian rebel groups has spilled over into Northern and Western Bahr al Ghazal states since late 2010.
  • There is little concrete evidence of significant arms inflows from Libya’s Ghaddafi-era arsenals into Darfur in the aftermath of the 2011 Libya conflict, though the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and possibly Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) did acquire materiel from Libya during 2011.

‘Business as usual’ is the 20th Issue Brief from the HSBA.

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