The Tanks That Won’t Go Away

Well this is awkward, isn’t it? You may remember that last year Somali pirates captured a ship loaded with 33 T-72 tanks, which the Kenyan government went to great lengths to deny were destined for its friends in south Sudan (arming one side or the other being in breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, unless done with the agreement of the other side).

The tanks were eventually unloaded in Mombasa, once a ransom had been paid, with the tanks being taken to Kahawa barracks outside Nairobi. The Kenyan government continued to deny they were destined for south Sudan and presumably hoped that it could rely on the local press to quietly forget about the matter. Well not everyone forgot about them…

Jane’s began an extensive satellite imagery canvass of the area in March, aiming to trace the movement of T-72s from Mombasa towards South Sudan. While the analysis does not conclude that the tanks aboard the Faina were in transit towards their ostensible rightful owners, it does show a pattern of tanks making their way north.

Next year Sudan is due to hold country-wide elections. The following year the south with hold a referendum on independence. Both votes could sow the seeds of building a new, modern Sudan. Or with both sides apparenly arming (Khartoum unveiled its homemade warplane a fortnight ago) for a painful separation, they could sow the seeds of total meltdown and another regional war.