The United States is worried about the flow of arms into semi-autonomous southern Sudan, some of it heavy weapons, ahead of a nationwide April election, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday.
“We heard today from the U.N. that it is not just small arms but some heavier munitions that seem to be flowing in,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after a U.N. Security Council meeting on Sudan.
“We weren’t given specifics on that,” she said. “But we have seen, in the violence that is taking place in the South, a higher degree of sophistication and lethality of the weapons employed, and that’s a source of concern.”
She added that Washington believed some of the weapons were coming from northern Sudan.
“But I imagine that weapons are also coming from elsewhere and we would like a full accounting,” Rice said, adding that it was a region with “porous borders” and that weapons were coming from “all directions.”
Human Rights Watch warned on Sunday that repression of political opponents in both Sudan’s North and semi-autonomous South was undermining the prospects for Sudan’s first democratic elections in 24 years, scheduled for April.
After decades of north-south civil war, a 2005 peace deal shared power and wealth and enshrined democratic reform in Africa’s largest country. It outlined the April elections and a southern Sudanese referendum on independence in 2011.
But delays in implementing the deal have fueled mistrust between the North and South. A law forced through last month by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s dominant National Congress Party giving Sudan’s feared intelligence services wider powers has further compounded matters.
Rice said the April elections, which Bashir hopes to win, needed to be credible and that U.N. peacekeepers in the South and Sudan’s western Darfur region would have to do their best to provide security for all the people of Sudan.
Last week U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council in a report that a new civil war in Sudan could break out, given the atmosphere of deep mistrust between various key players in the country.
“A return to conflict remains a very real possibility, with potentially catastrophic humanitarian, political, military and economic consequences throughout the region,” his report said. “Preventing such an outcome will require all the support that the international and regional communities can offer.”