Civilian Destruction in Jonglei: Khartoum's Role in Arming David Yau Ya

Eric Reeves
August 21, 2013

There is a great deal of biased attention when it comes to international
assessments of the ongoing ethnic strife in Jonglei. UN reports from the
ground, primarily from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), suggest a
recent diminishment of violence, and humanitarian access may be improving.
Both UNMISS and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) are performing more
effectively, and a very recent UN assessment indicated that tensions between
the SPLA and civilians was diminishing. Certainly the situation is far from
stabilized; ethnic tensions remain high, particularly between the Murle and
the Lou Nuer; and it must be emphasized that the previous behavior of the
SPLA has entailed very serious violations of human rights and a failure to
distinguish between Murle civilians and those Murle who have joined David Yau
Yau's rebellion.

But let us be clear as to why Yau Yau's group has been able to create the
havoc it has, why it has been able to engage in a kind of provocative
guerilla warfare that makes distinguishing civilians and combatants
particularly difficult, and why it is unlikely to cease action despite the
generous offer of amnesty from Juba. This rebel group, deep in South Sudan's
Jonglei State, has been repeatedly armed by Khartoum as part of a larger
effort to destabilize the South. Armaments have come overland, but also have
been airlifted by Khartoum's Antonov aircraft to Yau Yau. Again, this effort
is an extension of a broader war of attrition that has as its goal the
collapse of the state of South Sudan. Certainly Jonglei would not present
nearly the challenges it does without the activities of Yau Yau's group; and
Yau Yau's group would not be able to operate—without a political agenda and
trading almost exclusively on ethnic grievances—without substantial
military support from Khartoum.

Despite these facts, international condemnation over developments in Jonglei
has fallen almost exclusively on Juba. I have myself been publicly critical
of SPLA human rights abuses in Jonglei (
[1]), but would hope such criticism is seen within the broader assessment of
the causes of violence against civilians in Jonglei. That so little is said
by the UN, the U.S., the EU, the African Union and others signals both
expediency and disingenuousness.

I have discussed at length the evidence that Khartoum is supporting Yau Yau's
group and—by contrast—the complete absence of evidence for the regime's
claim that South Sudan is supporting rebel groups within Sudan ("The arming
of rebels in Sudan and South Sudan: What is the evidence?" 17 June 2013, [2]). I survey a great deal of evidence
from recent years, and little has change in the intervening months to change
the conclusions reached.

Moreover, a new study by the Small Arms Survey provides even more detailed
evidence that armaments used by Yau Yau's group are purposefully sent by the
National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in a desperate effort
to undermine South Sudan before Sudan's own continuing economic implosion
sweeps this corrupt and desperate regime from power. Although relatively
brief, the detail and authority of the evidence and conclusions is
overwhelming. It is also clear that Khartoum has begun an aggressive effort
to disguise the origins of weapons by grinding off identifying numbers. I can
do no better than to cite the key findings of this critical report (see
website for high resolution photographs; all emphases are added):

Small Arms Survey, "Weapons Captured from David Yau Yau's Militia, July 2013,

During the first half of 2013, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces
operating in Jonglei seized a variety of weapons and ammunition from rebel
forces under the command of David Yau Yau. The Small Arms Survey previously
documented weapons with a group of Yau Yau’s men who defected under the
leadership of James Kubrin in December 2012.

This report expands on the findings of the initial fieldwork. The Small Arms
Survey and the independent research group Conflict Armament Research visited
SPLA divisional headquarters in Paryak, Bor County, on 5 July 2013 to view a
range of weapons that the SPLA had captured subsequent to the February site
visit. These weapons, which are described below, are identical in type to
those documented earlier in the year. They also include many of the same
weapon and ammunition types that have been documented in the hands of
Khartoum-backed rebel forces elsewhere in South Sudan, including the South
Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army
(SSDM/A) under the leadership of George Athor, and Johnson Olony’s Shilluk

Among the most striking findings of the July fieldwork in Jonglei was the
significant increase in the number of weapons seen with removed serial
numbers and factory marks. The most logical explanation for the increase is
that actor(s) in the supply chain wish to obscure their sourcing. These
designs are consistent with types observed in the Survey’s February 2013
site visit of weapons. They are also of the same type observed with returning
South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) forces in Mayom (May 2013), Johnson
Olony’s forces in Lul, Upper Nile (July 2013), those collected from George
Athor’s forces (February 2012), and seized from the SSLA in April 2011. In
all cases, respective rebel forces report that the weapons have been supplied
through Khartoum, though this cannot be independently corroborated. The
weapons are similar in design to Iranian RPG-7-pattern models.

The trigger assemblies feature no viable identifying marks although a serial
number (formerly positioned on the launch tube above the sight bracket)
appears to have been removed by grinding and later painted (see images
below). One example of many Chinese CQ assault rifles viewed, with associated
5.56 x 45 mm magazine and ammunition (addressed below). The rear sight
housing/carry handle of the weapon has been deformed by a bullet impact. In
all cases observed, identifying factory marks—which typically appear on the
left-hand side of the magazine housing—have been removed by milling,
indicated by the bright metal observable in the images above and below. In
the left-hand image below, black paint was evidently applied after milling,
although the paint has abraded with use. The weapons, and mode of milling,
are identical to examples documented with Yau Yau’s forces (February 2013),
returning SSLA forces in Mayom (May 2013), and Johnson Olony’s forces in
Lul (July 2013). A number of these rifles were seized in Pibor [Jonglei] in
July 2013.

This weapon is identical to PKM-pattern weapons documented in service with a
range of Khartoum-backed rebel forces in South Sudan. Weapons of this kind
have been identified bearing the model designation ‘M80’ (see HSBA
Tracing Desk Report ‘Weapons seized from the forces of George Athor and
John Duit,’ December 2012) although this particular weapon’s model
designation and additional marks have been removed by grinding (see images
below). This 5.56 x 45 mm small-calibre ammunition is identical to types
documented with Yau Yau’s forces.

Of an international community that is bringing pressure to bear on Juba over
its military actions in Jonglei and failing to take seriously the
implications of such authoritative findings—and in turn bringing
appropriate pressure to bear on Khartoum—we must say again that this
represents shamefully expedient accommodation of a regime that survives only
because of its unlimited capacity and willingness to generate vast human


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