JUBA (26 Jan.)
An Austrian surveillance aircraft has been observed at a military airport in South Sudan’s capital since last year, part of a set of aerial assets that “emboldened” hardliners in the government and “facilitated the expansion of the war,” according to a UN report.
This finding is reported by the Panel of Experts on South Sudan in a report circulated at the United Nations headquarters in New York, a copy of which was seen by Radio Tamazuj. The Panel reports to a UN sanctions committee set up under Security Council resolution 2206.
“Beginning in July 2015, the Panel started to observe the presence of an Austrian produced Diamond 42 Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance aircraft at the military airport in Juba,” says the UN report.
The UN report goes on to suggest that this surveillance capability enables the South Sudanese government to better direct attacks by its attack helicopters, which were allegedly involved in recent attacks on civilians in Western Equatoria, Upper Nile and elsewhere.
“The government has at least three operational Mi-24 helicopters procured in 2014 at a total cost of nearly US$43 million; these helicopters have been vital in providing an important advantage in military operations, have facilitated the expansion of the war, and have emboldened those in the government who are seeking a military solution to the conflict at the expense of the peace process,” adds the report.
Article 77 of the UN report says that the Austrian-made aircraft gives the government “advanced integrated aerial reconnaissance and targeting capabilities for the Mi-24s, as well as for ground forces. This form of integrated target acquisition will give the government even greater strategic advantage over opposition and defence forces.”
Ukraine, Israel, Uganda and other nations were also named in the report as countries of origin or intermediaries in the trade of various military equipments, as well as a Norwegian company involved in building hangars for attack helicopters.