January 6, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – The United States president Barack Obama issued a memorandum on Friday notifying the Secretary of State and Congress that he is adding South Sudan to the list of countries eligible to buy weapons from the US.
- US President Barack Obama speaks about the Defense Strategic Review, outlining Defense budget priorities and cuts, during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, January 5, 2012 (AFP)
“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 503(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, and section 3(a)(1) of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended, I hereby find that the furnishing of defense articles and defense services to the Republic of South Sudan will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace” said the official text of Obama’s decision.
But US officials said this move did not mean that Washington has imminent plans to sell arms to South Sudan.
"We have from the beginning, and even before we got to statehood, been open to conversations that they wanted to have with us about how they would secure their borders, defend themselves in the future," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a news briefing on Friday.
"Those conversations are ongoing. I am not aware that we’ve come to any conclusions about what they might need and what we might be able to provide", she said.
South Sudan became an independent state last July following a referendum held a year ago in which southerners decided almost unanimously that they wanted to secede from the Arab-Muslim dominated north.
Despite Khartoum swiftly recognising the new state on its borders, tensions has escalated dramatically ever since between the two countries. The two sides traded accusations on supporting rebel groups on the other side of the border.
Late last year South Sudan accused Sudan of launching air raid inside its borders including one on a refugee camp. They repeated the allegation that Khartoum was bombing South Sudan at the start of this month.
The new state has no air defense systems to deter the Sudan Air Force (SAF) from carrying out bombardment missions inside its territories. This prompted many analysts to call on Washington to help South Sudan build its air defense capabilities which they say could make Khartoum think twice about going to war with Juba.
US administration is probably wary about rushing to selling weapons to the newborn state amid an outbreak of violence between two South Sudanese tribes that may have left thousands dead and some 50,000 people needing aid.
Khartoum will likely be angered by this step and would view the timing of the decision as targeting it in its dispute with South Sudan.