JUBA - A new report accuses Uganda of diverting European weapons into South Sudan, circumventing a European Union arms embargo on the conflict-ridden country.
The 101-page report by London-based Conflict Armament Research says the Ugandan government purchased arms and ammunition from at least three EU members — Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia — that were then sent to South Sudan's military and armed allies in Sudan.
Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo did not respond to repeated calls or a text message requesting an interview from VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
South Sudan military spokesman Major General Lul Ruai Koang said the purchases were made to defend the government against rebels.
"We did what was required of us to restock, resupply and defend the territorial integrity and to defend the democratic government from being toppled using illegal means," he told VOA. "Whether it came through Uganda or not ... we had a good reason at a time South Sudan was fighting the rebellion."
The new report documents how hundreds of weapons and more than 200,000 rounds of ammunition used in the conflict made their way to South Sudan.
It says a network of U.S. and Ugandan companies controlled by British, Israeli, Ugandan, and American nationals procured a military jet from the United States and an Australian-made surveillance aircraft for use by the government.
The report's findings suggest that neither the original supplier companies, nor the U.S. or Australian governments were aware of their aircraft possibly being transferred to South Sudan.The report says retransfers by way of Uganda may have breached end-use or non-transfer commitments made to exporters as a condition of sale.
The report, released Thursday, also documents secret shipments of Sudanese and Chinese-manufactured weapons from Sudan to opposition fighters in South Sudan by air and land from 2014 until at least mid-2015.
In July, the United Nations Security Council imposed a U.S.-drafted arms embargo on South Sudan, nearly five years after the country's civil war began.
The group Conflict Armament Research took about four years to release its findings, which come nearly three months after South Sudan's warring parties signed a revitalized peace agreement.
Koang said now that the warring parties have renewed a peace deal, the government has a right to purchase arms from whomever it chooses.
The war between government and rebels broke out in December 2013, less than three years after South Sudan became the world's newest independent country.The war has killed hundreds of thousands and uprooted more than 4 million South Sudanese from their homes.