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UK arms export to Sudan (2012-2022)

Country Overview

Sudan is the third-largest country in Africa with a population of 43 million people. The country has experienced significant political turmoil in recent decades, including a long running civil war that led to the independence of South Sudan in 2011. Currently, Sudan is transitioning to a civilian-led government since the oustung of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Since 1994, the European Union has embargoed arms supplies to Sudan. On 9 July 2011 South Sudan became independent and consequently, the EU amended the arms embargo to cover arms supplies to both Sudan and the newly independent state of South Sudan.

Sudan is inhabited by numerous ethnic groups, including Arabs, Nubian and Beja. The country holds significant natural resources. However, conflict, climate change and economic sanctions imposed by the international community have caused the country to struggle economically.

Sudan signed the ATT on September 25, 2013 and ratified it on March 21, 2018. As a member, Sudan is required to implement provisions, including assessing the risk of arms transfers and prohibiting arms transfers that could be used to commit human rights abuses.

How many licenses for the sale of arms to Sudan did the UK government issue between 2012 and 2022?

The number of military export licenses granted to Sudan was relatively low and consistent from 2012 to 2022, with 6 limited licenses and 8 unlimited ones being exported. Between one and three licenses were issued per year.

What is the total value of those exports in GBP?

The value of UK arms exports to Sudan between 2012 and 2022 totalled £241k, with £188k being exported in 2022 alone.

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

What are the top 10 types of arms export licenses Britain has sold to Sudan?

During the last decade, most licenses were granted for industrial chemicals, cryptographic hardware, software, and information security equipment. In addition to all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection.

Top 10 military items exported from the UK to Sudan between 2012-2022Total number of licenses
all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection4
body armour4
military helmets4
components for munitions/ordnance detection/disposal equipment3
components for body armour3
munitions/ordnance detection/disposal equipment2
weapon sight mounts2
military equipment for initiating explosives1
components for all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection1
bomb suits1
Top 3 military export items from the UK to Sudan between 2012-2022 by valueValue in GBP
ML13 ‒ Armoured plate, body armour, helmets£188k
ML4 ‒ Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures£48k
ML6 ‒ Armoured vehicles, tanks£2.8k

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

Why should British citizens be concerned about arms sales?

Sudan is one of the most heavily armed countries in the world, according to the 2015 HART Report on The Arms Trade and Sudan. The accessibility of small arms and light weapons (SALW) has been a cause for concern, as it has further instigated the cycle of conflict and instability. Diversion is another big issue. Research published by Conflict Armament Research reported that materiel supplied from Sudan has also reached combatants in the current conflict through routes other than direct supply.

The conflicts have contributed to widespread human suffering which has only been exacerbated by recent challenges related to flooding, food insecurity, and the COVID-19 pandemic, and is further straining the country’s resources. 

What has the British government said about these concerns?

In it’s 2015 corporate report, the government acknowledged “the human rights situation in Sudan remains of deep concern to the UK; there was no overall improvement in 2014 and in some areas the situation deteriorated.”

The Embassy of the United Kingdom and other embassies issued a joint statement regarding 100 Sudanese protestors who have died since the coup on October 25th, 2021.” The authorities to undertake further confidence-building measures, such as: ensuring an effective end to the use of force against protesters; lifting emergency decrees; ensuring progress on ongoing investigations into human rights violations; and releasing those arrested for their political opinions under emergency legislation.” 

What evidence is there of human rights abuses that the Sudanese government has committed since 2012?

After its parting, Sudan’s relations with newly independent South Sudan deteriorated in early 2012, leading to clashes along the shared border in April. In early 2012, cross-border attacks, including aerial bombardments by Sudan into South Sudan, increased culminating in 10 days of armed conflict between the two nations. In the following years, over 2014–2015, HART found 186% more civilian explosions. New Government technologies caused December 2014 to have the most bombings since the conflict began.

In January 2016, Sudan’s armed forces, including the Rapid Support Forces and allied militia, launched coordinated ground and air attacks on civilians in Jebel Marra, the rebel stronghold in Central Darfur.

.Amnesty International revealed in 2017 that a London shell company acted as an intermediary in arms deals to war-torn South Sudan and other countries. Saying the UK is a haven for illegal arms transfer companies due to regulatory gaps.

In April 2019, Mass protests in Sudan led to the removal of President Omar al-Bashir. A few month later, in October, Sudan’s transitional government was overthrown by the military. Security forces responded aggressively to the pro-democracy demonstrations, firing live ammunition and large amounts of tear gas into the crowds, leading to the death of almost 100 protesters to date, and injuring thousands of others.

The democratic transition of Sudan has been marked by political instability which slowed the pace of rights and rule of law reforms, and worsened by an ‘economic situation that compounded public discontent.’

The continued use of excessive force by the Sudanese government against peaceful protesters in 2022 drew grave concerns from UN human rights experts, who demanded that those responsible be held accountable and that justice be done. The Joint Human Rights Office reports that “more than 1000 people were arrested for opposing the coup and its consequences between 25 October 2021 and 3 March 2022.”

Despite this catalog of harm, the UK still deems it acceptable to sell weapons and arms to Sudan.