Home | News    Wednesday 11 April 2012

South Sudan receives military trucks from China: report

April 10, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – South Sudan received a shipment of military hardware from China that were loaded via the Kenyan port of Mombasa, according to a Kenyan newspaper.

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Chinese Trucks headed to South Sudan parked at Kenyan port of Mombasa (The Star)

The Nairobi-based The Star newspaper said in its Monday edition that the consignment included 34 military trucks, trailers and wagons which had been at the port waiting for clearance since 3 April.

According to the report, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) shipping schedule confirmed that the shipment, part of which belongs to the United Nations, arrived on different days to Mombasa using two vehicle carriers, Bahamas-flagged MV Crystal Ray and Panama-flagged MV Topaz Ace.

They left Yokohama port on February 23 and 26 this year, passing through several other ports including Kobe, Durban and Dar-es-Salaam, and then Mombasa.

The report comes amid heightened military tensions between Khartoum and Juba as both sides continue to fight intermittent battles along their poorly defined border. On Tuesday, the Sudanese army announced that it has lost the oil-rich town of Heglig to South Sudanese forces.

Even before South Sudan gained its independence from the north, there were reports that it has been engaged in an arms race with Khartoum.

In September 2008 it was revealed that 33 Soviet-era T-72 tanks and BM-21 multiple rocket launch systems on board a Ukrainian cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates for four months had been destined for southern Sudan via Kenya. Kenya’s government at the time denied it and said the tanks were for its military.

However, satellite photos monitoring the tanks showed them being transported to various bases in South Sudan.

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Chinese Trucks headed to South Sudan parked at Kenyan port of Mombasa (The Star)

Sources at the port told The Star that South Sudan has continued to import its military equipment and other hardware through Mombasa.

“There has been a long-term agreement which was signed a long time ago. It is now that it is being implemented in phases," said the sources who refused to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The assistant director of public communication in the Kenyan Ministry of Defense Bogita Ongeri refused to comment on the consignment and referred The Star to the High Commissioner of South Sudan.

“The [South] Sudanese officials are better and well placed to respond to this since the consignment is theirs. It is not something for Kenyans,” Ongeri said.

If confirmed, the report might show a Chinese interest in fostering stronger ties with the oil-rich South Sudan. The latter supplies 5% of China’s oil supplies. But due to a dispute with Sudan on oil transit fees, Juba suspended oil production.

Sudan’s split divided China’s oil industry investments, leaving the fields mostly in South Sudan but the two pipelines out of them running through Sudan.

Last December, China made a failed mediation attempt between Khartoum and Juba after which it has remained mostly silent on the issue.

It even sought to downplay Juba’s decision last February to expel Liu Yingcai, the head of the Chinese-Malaysian oil consortium Petrodar.

A report issued this month by International Crisis Group (ICG) mentioned that China has sought to accelerate its engagement in South Sudan as it hurtled towards independence, citing great increases in the number of Chinese workforces and companies operating in the new country following secession.

The report also explains the dilemma facing China which needs to balance “old friends” in Khartoum with “new friends” in Juba as they continue to wrangle over transporting South Sudan’s oil via Sudan.