AOAV: all our reportsUK arms exports to countries of concern

UK arms exports to South Sudan (2012-2022)

Country Overview

South Sudan gained independence on July 9, 2011 after a long lasting war between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the southern region of Sudan which began in 1983 and ended with a peace agreement signed in 2005. The E.U. had a preexisting arms embargo on Sudan that was established in 1994 in response to the nation’s civil war. Once South Sudan became an independent nation, this embargo was amended to include South Sudan in addition to its successor state of Sudan.

South Sudan has a diverse population of over 64 ethnic groups, with the Dinka being the largest. The country is rich in natural resources, including oil, but has been plagued by its own internal conflicts, political instability, violence, and economic challenges since its independence. Shortly after gaining independence, the country descended into its own civil war, when in December 2013, a political dispute within the ruling party led to armed conflict between government forces and rebel groups. The conflict resulted in a humanitarian crisis and displacement of millions of people. In 2018, a peace agreement was signed, but the country still faces significant challenges in achieving lasting stability and development.

South Sudan currently isn’t a member to the ATT. The countries application has been pending since 2018.

How many licenses for the sale of arms to South Sudan did the UK government issue between 2012 and 2021?  

In total, from 2012 to 2021, 62 limited and 20 unlimited export licenses were sold by the UK to South Sudan.

What is the total value of those exports in GBP?

In total, from 2012 to 2022, £6.7m. the worth of licenses was sold to South Sudan by UK-based companies.

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

What are the top 10 types of arms export licenses Britain is selling to South Sudan?

The most frequent UK-sold items to South Sudan are typical of a country fighting a civil war, as much equipment for conventional military operations that appears on the list (body armor and military helmets).

Top 10 military items exported from the UK to South Sudan between 2012-2022Total number of licenses
body armour33
military helmets32
components for body armour30
military support vehicles15
components for military support vehicles10
all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection8
military trailers7
munitions/ordnance detection/disposal equipment5
military equipment for initiating explosives5
components for military equipment for initiating explosives4
Top 3 military export items from the UK to South Sudan between 2012-2022 by valueValue in GBP
ML6 ‒ Armoured vehicles, tanks£4.4m
ML13 ‒ Armoured plate, body armour, helmets£1.9m
ML4 ‒ Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures£212k

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

Why should British citizens be concerned about arms sales?

Since South Sudan became independent on July 9, 2011, the new government has failed to protect its citizens from human rights violations, and the country has seen deliberate attacks on civilians by both state forces and militia groups.

Domestic and international groups lobbied for years in an effort to create an embargo to stem the flow of weapons used against civilians. Any attempt to breach or circumvent the embargo has the real potential to cause direct human suffering.

What has the British government said about these concerns?

​​At the Human Rights Council 39, the UK presented its Statement on South Sudan saying: “The Government (of South Sudan) is responsible for grave violations committed by its own forces, and is failing to meet its obligations under international law and under its own constitution.” It continued by acknowledging further human rights abuses: “the Government also consistently fails to address the culture of impunity… Armed actors deliberately target and kill civilians, commit rape including gang rape, recruit children to their ranks, and forcibly displace communities, secure in the knowledge that their crimes will go unpunished.”

On 4 July 2022, the UK delivered a statement during the Universal Periodic Review Adoption for South Sudan. “The UK remains deeply concerned by the dire humanitarian situation and harrowing reports of violence, killings, and widespread sexual and gender-based violence, including in Leer. We call on the Government of South Sudan to take immediate action to hold the perpetrators to account and end impunity.”

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

Horrific attacks on civilians began within 24 hours of the start of South Sudan’s new war in mid-December 2013. Thousands of civilians have been killed and large parts of key towns, including civilian infrastructure such as clinics, hospitals, and schools, have been looted, destroyed, and abandoned. An estimated 1.5 million people were forced to flee their homes; 100,000 people still shelter in United Nations compounds, too afraid to return home.
The outbreak of the new civil war brought about the killing of thousands of civilians by 2014. Government forces were accused of conducting a brutal crackdown on Juba’s Nuer population that included targeted killings, house-to-house searches, mass arrests, unlawful detention of hundreds of men in poor conditions, ill-treatment, and torture. In early 2015, the government launched one of its biggest offensives in the conflict, killing hundreds of civilians and burning homes and other civilian property in opposition-held areas of Unity state. Although a peace deal was agreed the same year, it quickly collapsed in July 2016 when parties to the peace agreement (government and opposition forces ) fought for four days in the capital, Juba, killing hundreds of civilians.

In April 2020, an Amnesty International investigation in South Sudan revealed evidence of arms embargo violations, including newly imported small arms and ammunition, illicit concealment of weapons, and diversion of armored vehicles for unauthorized military purposes.

In May 2022 Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa said “Amnesty International has documented over a dozen cases of conflict-related sexual violence from recent years, including women who were raped at gunpoint.In its most recent 2023 report HRW reported on violence between armed forces resulting in displacements and serious abuses, ‘some of which may qualify as war crimes or crimes against humanity’ as well as conflict related sexual violence. Throughout this, authorities continued to threaten, harass, and arbitrarily detain oppositionists and human rights activists for long periods without trial. Therefore indicating no clear sign of improvement for the people in South Sudan.