Arms race, uneasy peace in Sudan
In the south, the parliament voted to double its budget to cover military spending, and the north spent 20 percent of its budget on the military.
Although the Arab-dominated government of Sudan and the semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan have been at peace for three years, there are signs that both sides are stepping up the pace of a cold war-style arms race.Skip to next paragraph
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In September, pirates off the coast of Somalia hijacked a shipment of Russian tanks reportedly destined for Southern Sudan. A month later Sudanese authorities seized an Ethiopian cargo plane they say was carrying ammunition and light armament in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Later in October, Sudan recalled its ambassadors from Kenya and Ethiopia because the two nations were allegedly shipping arms to the south.
After a 21-year civil war, both the north and the south Sudan are not only reluctant to disarm, but reports indicate that both sides are actively preparing for the possibility of a renewed outbreak of fighting. Decades of conflict have left many in the north and the south unable to fully trust one another, leaving many analysts wondering if the current peace will endure.
"This arms race has been going on for some time, with each side anticipating the worst," says Alex de Waal, a program director at the New York-based Social Science Research Council and a world-renowned expert on Sudan.
The nation's civil war spanned from 1983 to 2005, killing more than 2 million people and forcing another 4 million to flee their homes.
The 2005 peace deal forbids either side from reinforcing its military without permission from a Joint Defence Board, monitored by both the north and the south. But analysts say both the north's Sudanese Armed Forces and the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) have been vigorously expanding their armed forces, though it is unclear how much of this is illegal.
According to military analysts, the south buys tanks, armored personnel carriers, assault rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, mortar rounds, and ammunition. It also receives defense training from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, the United States, and Britain. The north gets an even wider array of Eastern European and Chinese military equipment, including combat aircraft and fighter jets. An October report by Human Rights First says China, India, Kenya, Iran, and Russia, by their own admission, ship arms directly to northern Sudan. Many other countries underreport their exports to Sudan.