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South Sudan denies buying weapons at time of famine

March 18, 2017 (JUBA)- The South Sudanese government has protested to a confidential report by a panel of experts who were appointed by the United Nations on findings accusing the government of buying weapons while the country was experiencing a devastating famine.

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Arms and light weapons have been used by both warring parties in South Sudan to commit abuses (Photo courtesy of SSANSA)

The U.N. panel of experts recommended the government to consider an arms embargo.

South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters after Friday’s weekly briefing that “we have not bought arms for the last two to three years."

The Minister went on to say that the government had the right to acquire weapons for self-defence. "We have rights to buy arms for self-protection or self-defence. So this idea of the UN saying the government of South Sudan doesn’t care about its people and they are fan of buying arms all the time is not correct," said Lueth.

The minister also dismissed the accuracy of the report, claiming it was biased.

Lueth strongly denied buying weapons, however multiple military sources have told the Sudan Tribune on Saturday that weapons were acquired and the information was leaked by officers at the procurement and logistics department.

The leaking of this information has resulted in the arrest of many military officers, while others left the country. Other military officers formed a rebellion.

“It is true there has been a plan to acquire weapons and this information was leaked to the UN by some of our officers in the directorate for logistics. Some of these officers have now left the country. Others like Thomas Cirilo Swaka have rebelled. So it was the work of rebels from within,” a high ranking military officer told Sudan Tribune Saturday.

Famine was recently declared in Mayendit, a village in South Sudan’s Unity state, the latest crisis in the country’s three-year civil war. About 100 000 people are said to be at risk, and aid groups are pleading for access. At least 5 million people or more than 40% of the nation’s population are need urgent assistance, aid agencies say.

Years of civil war, a refugee crisis and a collapsing economy have taken a toll on South Sudan since it gained independence in 2011. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the country’s worst ever violence since it seceded from North Sudan in 2011.

(ST)