A Chinese government owned military arms supplier has been identified as having sold $20 million worth of weapons to the South Sudanese government, just several months after a brutal and deadly escalation in the civil war that has been raging in the country for the last 18 months.
A United Nation's (UN) report says the 2014 sales were made at a time when it was widely known that government forces were burning people alive, raping children and committing other horrific acts.
The report identifies China North Industries Corp (Norinco), a Chinese State owned and controlled company, as selling,1,200 missiles, 100 anti-tank guided missile launchers, 10,000 automatic rifles, 24 million rounds of various types of ammunition, and 2,400 grenade launchers, to the South Sudanese Government.
Although South Sudan's military forces have also acquired four attack helicopters since the civil war began, the UN report did not identify who had supplied them, revealing that it had started an investigation into the supply of the helicopters and other weapons, along with looking into “the financing channels used by the government and the opposition to prosecute the war and into those individuals and entities who gain financially from the continuation of the conflict".
The civil war began in December 2013, after a split within the South Sudanese military amongst tribal factions, turned into a violent rebellion led by Riek Machar.
The UN Security Council has said if the South Sudan government does not sign a peace deal this week, it would impose an arms embargo, and experts say despite earlier resistance, Sudan's President Salva Kiir is expected to comply with the UN demand.
The UN report showed both sides in the internal conflict have targeted civilians saying that as from April “the intensity and brutality of the violence aimed at civilians are hitherto unseen, in what has already been, without a doubt, an exceedingly violent conflict.”
Government controlled forces have adopted a “scorched earth policy” burning entire villages, sometimes with people still in their homes, are abducting children for use as child soldiers, and are raping women and young girls..
Stephen O’Brien, the UN's aid chief said the level and scope of attacks against civilians “suggests a depth of antipathy that goes beyond political differences".
"A witness from Rubkona County has said that she saw government forces gang-raping a breastfeeding mother after tossing her baby aside,” he said,
Although not saying how many civilians have been killed in the Civil War, the UN has said it was thousands and that 1.6 million people had been displaced so far.
Although being oil-rich, the civil war has plummeted South Sudan into huge public debt. When the country gained independence in 2011 it had zero debt, but as of June, 2015, it stood at $4.2 billion, the UN report said.