Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sudan summons Kenyan & Ethiopian ambassadors over pirated arms

KHARTOUM - Sudan summoned the Kenyan and Ethiopian ambassadors on Monday to protest against what it said were illegal shipments of arms to its semi-autonomous south, state media reported.

Khartoum was protesting over "violations" linked to an arms shipment seized by pirates off Somalia's coast that Western diplomats said was bound for south Sudan, and a plane-load of weapons from Addis Ababa, state news agency SUNA reported. SUNA stopped short of accusing Ethiopia and Kenya of directly supplying the arms to south Sudan, which won its own government and the right to its own army in a 2005 peace deal with Khartoum that ended a two-decade civil war. But it said that "against the backdrop" of the two shipments, the foreign ministry asked both envoys to "inform their governments of its protest at these violations".

A senior official of the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that the south was buying any new equipment from Ethiopia, Kenya or any other country. "We don't have the resources," he told Reuters. Khartoum's move raised the heat in a row over the shipment of 33 T-72 tanks and other weapons seized by pirates last month off Somalia that western diplomats said were secretly heading for south Sudan in possible breach of the peace agreement. The pirates, who are still holding the cargo, said paperwork showed the tanks were heading to south Sudan through Kenya's port of Mombasa. South Sudan has denied ordering the tanks and Kenya has insisted the machines were meant for its own army.

Sudan's foreign ministry also protested about unspecified weapons that it said had arrived in south Sudan's capital Juba on Friday on an Ethiopian military plane, SUNA said. Southern officials and army officers on Monday denied the weapons were part of an arms delivery and told Reuters they had been brought in as exhibits in a long-planned trade fair. The SPLA's Lieutenant General Biar Ajang said that rumours of an Ethiopian delivery of armaments were "confused"."They are coming to show local products, tents, uniforms, armaments, shells ... like a shop," he said.

Ethiopia's Consul General Negash Legesse told Reuters some of the weapons had been taken to SPLA headquarters for inspection. "They are samples. Some Kalashnikovs. Some others that Ethiopia is producing," he said. Sudan's foreign ministry said it was surprised at the shipments as both Kenya and Ethiopia had backed the 2005 peace deal that ended the civil war between north and south Sudan, SUNA said.

There are currently no global arms embargoes banning south Sudan from buying arms or supplying the SPLA. But the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ban both the north and the south from building up arms without the approval of a north-south Joint Military Board. Activists have repeatedly accused the north of also re-arming, and of breaching the terms of a U.N. arms embargo covering the warring parties in the separate Darfur conflict.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan Government will not pay the ransom demanded by Somali pirates. Instead, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Monday called for international support to rescue the hijacked MV Faina, saying paying the ransom would encourage crime.

The deadline the pirates gave for payment lapsed last night. The pirates had promised to blow up the Ukrainian vessel by Monday night should the ransom of $8 m not have been paid. On Friday, they gave a 36 hour deadline which expired Monday night. There is still no word confirming whether they carried out their threat. Somali Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur and the minister ruled out chances of the pirates blowing the ship up.

Wetangula, who was addressing heads of foreign missions in Nairobi, called for help from the US, France and UK to rescue the ship. "These pirates have hijacked four more ships after the MV Faina. We have to act fast," said Wetangula. Nur said the Somali Transitional Federal Government had called on the international community to step in, arguing that piracy had pushed food prices up. They were speaking at Spanish ambassador Nicolas Cinto’s residence during commemoration of the Spanish National Day.

The pirates on the Ukrainian MV Faina, which is carrying 33 tanks and other heavy weapons, continued to demand ransom before releasing the ship and its 20 crew. A spokesman for the pirates, Sugule Ali, last night said on satellite telephone they may extend the deadline following requests from the ship’s owner and other unidentified people.

No comments: