Arms Holdings

Estimating the numbers of weapons held by Sudanese state forces, armed groups, and civilians is extremely challenging. The proliferation of arms throughout Sudanese society is a primary legacy of almost four decades of civil war as part of which all sides received arms from outside parties and redistribution to allied forces and civilians was a widely used tactic. The capture and recapture of arms through theft and military engagements has fed the diffusion of weapons, as has the small-scale private 'ant trade' across Sudan's largely unmonitored borders. In many parts of Sudan, small arms and light weapons are ubiquitous at the community and civilian levels. In the context of long-standing tribal rivalries, the growing presence of arms has led to cycles of militarization and bloodshed.
Small Arms Survey research has suggested that, despite the great diversity of sources of arms to opposition and other non-state forces, the Sudan government has been the primary source of weapons to armed groups and militias, whether through deliberate supply or negligence, or via armed engagement. This suggests that reducing state-to-state transfers to the government could have an important corollary effect on arms diffusion to these groups in the future.
The following table, published in December 2009, is derived from dozens of field-based accounts from Sudanese government officials, foreign diplomats, humanitarian aid workers, and UN staff members. Because the history of arms distribution is long, record keeping is poor, and informants are often reluctant or may have their own agendas for inflating or minimizing arms stocks, the table must remain a work in progress. The Small Arms Survey welcomes all interested parties to provide informed, substantiated feedback on the holdings of specific groups and/or the multipliers used to generate aggregate figures. The table will be updated as new authenticated information becomes available.

Relevant Tables, Maps, and Summaries

Category Strength Ratio of weapons to members Estimated small arms Notes
GNU forces
SAF (not including JIUs) 225,000 Various 1 310,000 Infantry and reserves do not seem to lack arms (mostly Kalashnikovs). Popular Defence Forces not included (see below).
SAF Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) 17,000 1.1/soldier 19,000 GNU pays salaries, SAF provides arms.
National Police Service (NPS) 100,000 Various 2 110,000 Central Reserve Police are well armed.
Popular Defence Forces 20,000 0.5/personnel 10,000 Strength may once have been 100,000 men.
National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) (armed units) 7,500 2.5/official 19,000 NISS armed personnel comparatively well equipped and stocked. Separate NISS force to protect oil fields.
GoSS forces
SPLA (not including JIUs) 125,000 1.4/combatant 175,000 SPLA arms Southern police.
SPLA JIUs 16,000 1.1/combatant 17,500 GNU pays salaries, SPLA provides arms.
South Sudan Police Service 28,000 0.3/policeman 8,400 Budget includes 5,000 more police, but no weapons.
GoSS Prison Service 17,000 0.08/staff member 1,300 Prison staff reported to possess 1,300 AKM rifles.
GoSS Wildlife Service 13,000 0.08/staff member 1,000 Assume no better armed than Prison Service.
Armed groups
Eastern Front 2,000 0.5/combatant 1,000 Roughly half of estimated 4,000 ex-rebels have joined the SAF or reintegrated into civilian life.
SAF-aligned Arab militias 3 5,000 1.2/combatant 6,000 Believed to possess some 250 Landcruisers.
Ex-SAF-aligned Arab militias 4 2,000 1.2/combatant 2,400 Believed to possess some 120 Landcruisers.
Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) - Minni Minawi 1,500 1.2/combatant 1,800 Weakening, but benefits from sporadic SAF support. Believed to possess some 80 Landcruisers.
SLA - Abdul Wahid 2,500 1.2/combatant 3,000 Believed to possess some 40 Landcruisers.
'Addis Ababa Group' 5 1,000 1.2/combatant 1,200 Alliance believed to possess 20-25 Landcruisers.
Sudan's Liberation Revolutionary Forces (SLRF) 6 500 1.0/combatant 500 SLRF believed to possess perhaps 5-10 Landcruisers, most held by SLA field leadership's Ali Mukhtar.
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) 7 5,000 1.5/combatant 7,500 JEM believed to possess some 325 Landcruisers.
National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD) 500 1.2/combatant 600 NMRD believed to possess around 30 Landcruisers.
Chadian groups 8 4,000 1.5/combatant 6,000 Believed to possess some 150 Landcruisers.
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) 500 0.8/combatant 400 Recent clashes with UPDF have resulted in LRA losing men/access to arms caches. Many LRA now in Central African Republic.
Foreign UN and state forces
UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) (military units) 8,800 1.4/military personnel 12,500 UNMIS police, military observers, and civilian staff are unarmed. No formed (armed) police units.
AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (military units and formed police units) 15,250 1.3/military and police personnel 20,000 UNAMID like UNMIS, except (1) higher percentage of troop contributors provided with fewer weapons than requested and (2) formed police units are armed.
Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) 2,000 1.5/soldier 3,000 UPDF Battle Group operates in South Sudan to counter and pursue the LRA (sometimes outside Sudan).
Additional weapons held by civilians 9
Among those residing in the North 31 million 4 per 100 1.24 million State security forces and urban settings suggest low ratio.
Among those residing in the South 9 million 8 per 100 720,000 Prevalence of armed violence among pastoralist groups and lack of law and order suggest ratio could be higher.
Total n/a n/a 2.7 million  
Notes for Table:
All figures have been rounded.
1 Calculation assumes the SAF comprised of 20,000 officers (ratio of 1 weapon per officer), 120,000 infantry (1.5/soldier), 70,000 'reserves' (1.2/reservist), 10,000 air defence units (1.2/serviceman), 10,000 border guards (1.0/guard), and 1,200 navy and 3,500 air force personnel (0.5/serviceman).
2 Calculation assumes NPS has for many years consisted of the Central Reserve Police (CRP), Emergency Police, Immigration Police, Petroleum Police, and Popular Police. Recently, the Prison, Customs, and Wildlife services have been incorporated into the NPS. The strengths and comparative levels of equipment among these various components are extremely difficult to ascertain. It is understood that the CRP is the largest and best-armed force among these various units and that personnel possess light weapons and riot-control equipment in addition to their personal firearms. A ratio of 1.5:1 is used for the CRP, which is believed to represent perhaps 20 per cent of the 100,000-strong NPS. Members of the rest of the units are believed to receive one weapon each (which they may or may not have on their person, depending on the assignment).
3 The militias are frequently referred to as 'Janjaweed', which is often defined as 'devil on horseback'. The label was originally used to describe bandits. The international media have seized on this term to refer more generally to pro-Khartoum militias responsible for attacks on people in Darfur. While this is not a monolithic group with a unified command structure, the term here is used to denote militias in Darfur, drawn mostly from nomadic Arab tribes, which were armed by Sudanese Military Intelligence and the SAF in 2003-04. Many have since been given army IDs and salaries and remain by and large loyal to the SAF. The militias mostly comprise nomadic camel herders (Abbala), including the Mahamid (e.g. the Um Jalul tribe of Musa Hilal) and the Maharia of 'Hemeti'. This said, three points need to be underscored: (1) many Arabs have remained outside the conflict; (2) some Arabs have sided with the rebels; and (3) 'alignments'-even long-standing ones-can be fluid.
4 Many militias in Darfur, previously supported with arms from Khartoum, have since turned against the government. Some have joined pre-existing Darfur rebel movements or their offshoots. Many have formed armed groups of their own, but have not generated significant popular support among Arab communities.
5 The Addis Ababa Group owes its genesis to the efforts of US envoy Scott Gration to unite the SLA. In the short term, Gration has united only one faction of SLA Unity with a handful of commanders briefly aligned with Abdel Wahid.
6 The SLRF was established in Tripoli, by Libyan diktat, in September 2009 as Libya challenged Qatar's new central role in peacemaking in Darfur. It is an artificial construct designed as a political asset for Col. Gaddhafi. Its membership is unclear. What seems clear is that its creation increased the fragmentation of the rebel movements, splitting, for example, SLA Unity.
7 This refers to the movement headed by Khalil Ibrahim, militarily the strongest and politically the most coherent in Darfur. There have been several offshoots of the JEM since it was established in 2003 (e.g. the NMRD and Democratic JEM)-but the JEM has remained relatively stable compared to the SLA.
8 The term 'Chadian rebel groups' refers to numerous Darfur-based 'Chadian armed insurgent groups'. As of September 2009, by some accounts there were as many as ten distinct groups.
9 In the absence of reliable data, the population figures used here are rough estimates. According to disputed 2008 census results, the population of the North is 30.89 million, with 8.26 million in the South. The GoSS rejected the results on the basis that various populations, including in the south and the west, were deliberately under-counted. The Central Bureau of Statistics refused to share raw data with the South Sudan Commission for Census, Statistics, and Evaluation.
Source: Berman (2009)

Relevant HSBA Publications