By Conflict Armament Research
Fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA-in Opposition (SPLA-iO) forces has been ongoing in the Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan since December 2013. The town of Malakal in Upper Nile state repeatedly changed hands during the first three months of the crisis. On 19 March 2014, the SPLA secured Malakal and surrounding areas and maintained full control until mid-May 2015, when the SPLA-iO launched a new wave of offensives in Upper Nile State.
Each party to the conflict captured military equipment during the fighting. This Dispatch from the Field documents a sample recovered by the SPLA from SPLA-iO forces in Pigi County, Jonglei State, in November 2014.
The sample, which a Conflict Armament Research (CAR) investigation team examined in SPLA Sector II Headquarters in Malakal on 11 December 2014, provides important insights into the supply of weapons to SPLA-iO forces. Notably, the weapons and ammunition documented display clear evidence of damage sustained during airdrops
to SPLA-iO units, which reportedly took place in September–October 2014. Furthermore, the materiel is identical to previously documented arms and ammunition airdropped by Sudan to rebels in South Sudan in 2012, which provides strong indication of new, direct supplies from Sudan to SPLA-iO operations.
- Most of the ammunition documented had suffered heavy impact damage, which is consistent with eyewitness reports that aircraft dropped materiel to SPLA-iO forces in Upper Nile State in September–October 2014.
- The composition of the documented materiel, and a precedent for airdropping identical materiel to rebel forces in South Sudan in 2012, prior to the current conflict, suggests direct supply from Sudan to SPLA-iO forces.
- Observers on the ground also report that, throughout the month of December 2014, aircraft dropped additional military equipment to SPLA- iO units in Upper Nile and Jonglei States.
- 70 per cent of the 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition documented is Sudanese-manufactured, with the majority produced in 2014. The recent date of manufacture is further evidence of direct supply from Khartoum to SPLA-iO forces.
- The SPLA-iO used 2014-manufactured Sudanese ammunition prior to the September-December 2014 airdrops in Jonglei—including in its April 2014 attack on a mosque in Bentiu. This suggests more than one case of supply from Khartoum to the SPLA-iO.
• All of the 7.62 x 54R mm ammunition documented is Sudanese-manufactured and dates from 2011-14. The 2011 rounds are identical to ammunition supplied by Sudan to rebel forces in South Sudan in 2012, prior to the current conflict—including in airdrops of materiel.
• Chinese 12.7 x 108 mm ammunition documented is identical to ammunition supplied by Khartoum to South Sudanese rebel forces in 2012, prior to the current conflict.
• The serial number of a Chinese-manufactured Type 56-1 falls within the same sequence as rifles supplied by Sudan to South Sudanese rebel forces in 2011, prior to the current conflict.
• The types of materiel airdropped to support SPLA-iO operations in Jonglei State mirror weapon types that Sudan has supplied to support armed or insurgent forces elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, including in Darfur and the Central African Republic.