South Sudan budgeted $850m -- or up to 15% of its GDP-- to crush rebellion, UN says


Africa's newest nation was barely out of its diapers as it ratcheted army spending to over 10% of its GDP, buying Israeli, Chinese and Russian arms.

SOUTH Sudan, one of the world’s most corrupt and least developed countries, prepared an $850 million budget to crush a rebellion shortly after the insurgency began almost two years ago, the United Nations said.

The supply of Israeli automatic rifles, Chinese missiles, Russian attack helicopters and amphibious vehicles “has been instrumental in prolonging and escalating the war,” now in its 21st month, and enabled large-scale violations of humanitarian law, according to a yet to be published interim report by the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan.

South Sudan’s pursuit of “greater air and riverine capacity” is part of a strategy against a mobile insurgency that relies on small arms, the UN says in the report, obtained by Bloomberg from a person who asked not to be identified because it hasn’t yet been made public.

South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer said the military needed more weapons, gunships and vehicles to remain a modern force in the region, without commenting on the UN’s figure.

The US last week proposed a UN resolution to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on South Sudan after President Salva Kiir refused to sign a peace deal to end the civil war that’s left tens of thousands of people dead.

The government cited differences in opinion over the structure of the army, demilitarisation and governance in crude-rich Upper Nile state.

South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil reserves, after Nigeria and Angola, according to BP Plc data. Violence has cut crude output by at least a third to about 165,000 barrels per day, the Petroleum Ministry said in May. 

t’s ranked 171 of 175 countries on Berlin-based Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index and near the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, which measures indicators including life expectancy and national income.

“The UN should do a comparative study of other countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan on how much they spend on military,” Aguer said Monday by phone from South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

According to the  most recent data from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, South Sudan’s military expenditure last year was about 9% of its gross domestic product, giving it the highest military burden in Africa, and third globally after Oman and Saudi Arabia.

This figure could feasibly enter double digits of 15% as  according to the World Bank, South Sudan’s 2014 GDP was $13 billion.

Source: SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.

This 2014 arms spending places it ahead of Chad, Libya, the Republic of Congo and Angola. In 2006, just a year after South Sudan became independent, military expenditure was 6% of its GDP.

While 20 countries had military burdens of more than 4% of GDP in 2014, this figure was an increase from 2005, when 13 countries breached this mark as cut-backs following the end of the Cold War continued.

In the list of 20, only three countries are classified as democracies, with two—Libya and South Sudan—classified as failed states, according to data from the Centre for Systemic Peace.


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