Hijacked tanks for South Sudan
Hijacked tanks ‘for South Sudan’
Contract numbers include the initials GOSS, thought to be government of South Sudan.
The BBC has seen evidence suggesting that the Ukrainian ship being held by pirates off Somalia is carrying weapons and tanks destined for South Sudan.
A copy of the freight manifest appears to show contracts for the hardware were made by the Kenyan Ministry of Defence on behalf of South Sudan’s government.
This would directly contradict repeated statements by Kenya that the weapons on board the MV Faina are for its army.
The MV Faina is currently surrounded by warships monitoring the situation.
Last week, the Somali government said the ship’s owners were involved in direct negotiations with the pirates, who are demanding a $20m (£11m) ransom.
It had earlier been reported that the pirates were firing at each other. The pirates subsequently denied this and said they remained optimistic that a peaceful resolution could be reached.
The MV Faina is currently moored off the coast of Somalia, close to the town of Hobyo. There have been conflicting reports about where its cargo was destined for since it was captured two weeks ago.
Kenya has repeatedly insisted that the shipment was part of a programme to restock its military.
Kenya could be seen as playing the same role as Cuba did during the Angolan civil war
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But other sources have said it was instead bound for the autonomous government of South Sudan.
A copy of the cargo manifest given to the BBC appears to confirm that the contract was issued on behalf of South Sudan, although the Kenyan defence ministry is named as the consignee.
Contract numbers for tanks, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-aircraft guns contain the initials GOSS, which is widely used to refer to the Government Of South Sudan.
The BBC’s Karen Allen in Nairobi says that this will be a huge embarrassment to the Kenyan government.
Although the import of military hardware is not illegal, it does put Kenya in a tight spot diplomatically, our correspondent says, not least because it was Kenya which helped broker an end to the civil war between South Sudan and the government in Khartoum in 2005.
Last week, Western military experts told the BBC that the tanks on board the MV Faina were going to Sudan and that the shipment indicated an arms race between North and South Sudan had begun.
Hijacked MV Faina, 29 September 2008
The pirates want a $20m ransom for the MV Faina and its valuable cargo
They are reported to both be building up their forces ahead of a referendum on independence for the South in 2011.
The military experts, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a previous delivery of tanks had taken place last November.
Helmoed Heitman, Africa correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, also said he had reports that more than 100 T-72 and T-55 Russian tanks have been received by the southern Sudanese in recent months.
“If these reports are true, they could change the regional military balance,” he told the BBC.
“Kenya could be seen as playing the same role as Cuba did during the Angolan civil war – when they armed the MPLA.”
The experts said the tanks would most likely be dug in along Sudan’s north-south border, with the tanks using their guns to protect military installations.
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