From 2005 to 2014, peacekeepers in Sudan and South Sudan were attacked more than 100 times and suffered the loss of hundreds of weapons and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to a new report from the Small Arms Survey. Weapons losses have included pistols, assault rifles, machine guns (including heavy machine guns), grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, and mortars. Documented losses have been incurred by United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) peace operations in Darfur and South Sudan.
Under Attack and Above Scrutiny? Arms and Ammunition Diversion from Peacekeepers in Sudan and South Sudan, 2002–14 is the first independent review of weapons lost in peacekeeper operations, and was conducted to support more effective peacekeeping. The study draws on an original dataset that compiles data from a variety of open sources, such as UN and AU reports, media articles, academic papers, supplemented by more than 100 key informant interviews. Both the number of incidents and the number of weapons diverted are probably significantly undercounted due to the lack of transparency in reporting losses incurred, and at times sub-optimal record keeping of peacekeepers’ equipment.
Study co-author and Small Arms Survey Managing Director Eric Berman notes, 'The loss of arms and ammunition in peace operations cannot be completely prevented given the challenging environments in which peacekeepers are deployed. But these losses are larger and more frequent than previously appreciated, and can be reduced.'
Among the paper’s key findings:
There were more than 100 attacks on peacekeepers in Sudan and South Sudan between 2005 and 2014, not including carjackings and household robberies. At least half of these attacks resulted in the loss of arms and ammunition. The vast majority of the attacks took place in the Darfur region.
Between 2005 and 2014 there have been at least 20 notable incidents in which at least 10 arms or 500 rounds of ammunition in possession of or destined for peacekeepers in Sudan and South Sudan have been diverted. Seizures of this materiel have occurred both at fixed sites (e.g. mission bases and observation posts) and during transit (e.g. patrols and convoys).
As a result of the some 20 notable incidents documented, more than 750,000 rounds of ammunition were seized. This includes ammunition for pistols, assault rifles, and machine guns. Peacekeepers have also lost sizable numbers of grenades, rockets, and mortars.
More than 500 weapons were diverted from notable incidents alone. These include pistols, assault rifles, machine guns (including heavy machine guns), grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, and mortars.
The Small Arms Survey Diversion Dataset documented some 40 cases of ‘small-scale’ diversion, which, though not described in detail in this report, can add up to meaningful losses.
The oversight and reporting of arms and ammunition that peacekeepers recover from various armed actors in the mission area are often lax and can lead to recirculation and inappropriate use. Materiel may, for example, be returned to the person or group from which it was taken, given to a recognized tribal authority, or retained by a troop contributing country for safekeeping. Rarely are such munitions destroyed.