Addis Ababa — South Sudanese armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) under the leadership of the former vice-president, Riek Machar, has criticized the People's Republic of China for playing contradictory roles in the South Sudan's seven-month old conflict.
South Sudanese rebel troops loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar stand on guard in Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 after recapturing the strategic town from government troops (Photo: Reuters)
In a press statement a copy of which was sent to Sudan Tribune on Friday by the chairperson of the national committee for information and public relations, Mabior Garang de Mabior, the rebels slammed China for providing weapons to the government of president Salva Kiir while at the same time supporting the ongoing IGAD-mediated peace process in Addis Ababa.
"The People's Republic of China is providing loans to Government of South Sudan to keep afloat the economy. The People's Republic of China is also providing arms that are fuelling the conflict in South Sudan through its arms manufacturer - China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). These loans and arms are guaranteed with oil as collateral," Mabior said in the statement.
"The Government has received the latest consignments of arms this July. Documents are available. The government has armed militias using these arms to persecute its barbaric war in South Sudan especially in the oil producing areas," he further stressed.
He said China is taking advantage of being the biggest buyer of South Sudan's oil where its China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is the main operator in oil blocks 1, 2, 4 and 5A in western oilfields in Unity state and in blocks 3 and 7 in eastern oilfields in Upper Nile.
He pointed that China helps the government of South Sudan to finance the war and provides it with weapons while it also as a member of the UN Security Council has been advocating for deployments of more foreign troops to the new nation in which it contributed 800 troops as part of UNMISS to help restore and keep peace or protect oil installations.
Mabior added that China also contributed 3 million US dollars to IGAD to support the peace talks in Addis Ababa between the rebels and government.
He said the SPLM-In Opposition is concerned by the role that China is playing in the South Sudanese conflict.
Our concern and question is: why is China supporting war effort and at the same time supporting peace talks?" he challenged.
South Sudanese defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk confirmed the purchase of the weapons from China which were shipped through Port Mombasa of Kenya last month.
The documents for the recent shipment of weapons by China included a detailed packing list of 9,574 automatic rifles, 2,394 grenade launchers, 4 million bullets for automatic rifles, 2 million rounds of pistol ammunition, 319 machine guns, 660 pistols, 20,000 rounds of 40-millimeter anti-personnel grenades and 4,000 rounds of 40-millimeter.
Another packing list, detailing goods worth $14.5 million, includes 100 anti-tank weapons systems, 1,200 anti-tank missiles and spare parts.
Juuk defended his country's right to purchase weaponry from China adding that his government would also buy weapons from western nations if EU and US which have imposed sanctions on South Sudan, including arms embargo, would too sell their weapons to the country.
"My role is to defend the nation," Juuk said. "That means I have to arm my army. The army has to be equipped," he said.
REBELS WANT OIL OPERATIONS SUSPENDED
However, in the early reaction to the arms deal between China and South Sudan, rebels accused the government of preparing for more protracted violence at the expense of the welfare of the nation and reiterated the need to suspend the oil operations in order to deny the government money to finance the war.
"The regime has unfortunately prioritised hiring foreign mercenaries and acquiring weaponry to defend dictatorship at the expense of welfare of the citizens," rebel leader's spokesperson James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
The rebel spokesperson questioned the rationale behind the prioritisation to spend a billion US dollars on weaponry for the last six months of the crisis while people continue to die every day "because of hunger and curable diseases".
"This is the reason why our leadership has always expressed the need to suspend the oil operations in South Sudan; or alternatively establish a special account through a trusted third party which should be inaccessible to the regime. This can deny president Salva Kiir's government from using the oil revenues to finance the war," Dak said.
Machar who leads the rebel group downplayed sanctions by EU and US as ineffective, saying he encouraged IGAD regional sanctions to block the oil flow and deny access to the sea ports particularly in Sudan and Kenya.
REBELS CLAIM KILLING 115 GOVERNMENT TROOPS
In a separate development, the spokesperson of the SPLA In Opposition, Brig Lul Ruai Koang, claimed that 115 government troops were killed in Unity state this week.
He said the government forces launched unprovoked simultaneous attacks on the rebel positions in Nhial-Diu payam of Rupkoni county on Tuesday and Wednesday, but were repulsed.
"A total of 115 government soldiers were killed in action and ruminants repulsed back to Bentiu town," Koang said in a press release on Friday.
Koang also denied reports that fighting occurred in Jigmir and Maan-Deng areas of Upper Nile state in which government troops were alleged to have inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels.
"This is to inform gallant SPLA forces across the country, people of South Sudan and our supporters/sympathizers around the globe that there was no fighting which took place between our forces and Kiir's tribal army today morning at Jigmir and Man-Deng in Nasir County, Upper Nile State as reported by Chimpreports.com," he said.
He criticized media outlets for publishing what he said was mere fabrication.
Earlier, an Ugandan website reported that there was heavy fighting in the two locations in which the government defeated the opposition forces, inflicting casualties on them in terms of human and material losses.
"Reports that 124 AKM-47 assault rifles, 4 RPGs, 10PKMs, two soldiers killed, some taken as PoWs, briefcase and that the aforesaid military outposts were captured are false, baseless, unfounded and fabricated information."
"Our gallant forces are just 4km away from Nasir town centre and very soon, our supporters will hear good news," he added.