Monday, October 1, 2007

The Role of China in Sudan

China, disregarding objections from international societies, aggressively opposed to any international sanctions against Sudan and continues its financial support as well as supplies to the Sudanese government; this costs even more causalities.

Last week in U n WHO blog, we addressed the role China plays in Burma and examined why China is reluctant to lean harder on Burma’s military regime. China has been supporting and forming close ties with various authoritarian countries such as North Korea, Burma and Sudan. Previously, the attempts to pressure China over Darfur were futile. Thus, many Western countries have been pointing out that China in fact “coddles” authoritarian regimes. What exactly is the role of China in Sudan?

Sudan’s Civil War

Let’s explain the situation in Darfur first. In 2003, civil war was broken out in Darfur region of Sudan resulting in the highest number of the death in the twenty-first century. The outbreak of civil war, also recognized as an ethnic-cleansing campaign, resulted from the fighting for the oil, land, and water resources. The war brought about numerous problems such as illness, starvation, and military conflicts, which further cost the lives of 200,000 people and displaced nearly three million Sudanese. Hundreds of thousands of people sought refuge in neighboring Chad and Central African Republic.

Sudan lies south of Egypt and borders the Red Sea. With an area of 2,505,810 square kilometers, it has population of 41 million, consisting of 52% of black African and 40% of Arab. Its average annual per capital GDP in 2006 was 2,400 US dollars and the life expectancy in 2007 is 49. Sudan was originally a colony of Great Britain, but it formally declared its independence in 1956.

Following the declaration of independence were a series of successive civil wars and coups. The first civil war occurred before its independence and ended in 1972. The second civil war, beginning in 1983, resulted in a death toll of 2 million; it was the longest war in the twentieth century. Through the mediation by the US Government, the Sudanese Government and the rebel group, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (Armée Populaire de Libération du Soudan), eventually agreed to cease fire and officially signed the Peace Agreement in Geneva, Switzerland on January 19, 2002.

Immediately after the official signing, the two rebel groups, including Sudan Liberation Army (Armée de Libération du Soudan) and Movement for Justice and Equality (Mouvement pour la Justice et l’Égalité), began another insurrection against the pro-government militia. This government-supported militia aggressively used weapons to engage in assassination, rape, kidnapping, and destroying villages. Their acts were similar to the Genocide happened in Rwanda and Bosnia in the late twentieth century. This conflict was acknowledged as the worst humanitarian crisis in the early twenty-first century.

China’s influence over Sudan

One of the key roles for the most-recent civil war, which resumed in 2003, is the Janjawid—the government-supported militia. Primarily consisting of Arabs, the main force of this militia is selected from Abbala tribes, and they receive financial support as well as supplies, including arms, from the Sudanese government. In fact, these resources mainly come from the People’s Republic of China. Two thirds of China’s oil is imported from Sudan, and this makes China a critical sponsor to the Sudanese government. In addition, China is aggressively opposed to any international sanctions against the Sudanese government. Like China, Russia also sells weapons to the Sudanese government regardless of the objection from the UN. The result of successive wars and coups has caused refuge issue in surrounding countries, especially Chad, which further brought about the turmoil in this region.

The other key role of the civil war consists of two rebel groups, which are the Sudan Liberation Army and the Movement for Justice and Equality. This anti-government force not only gains support from Sudan People’s Liberation Army, but also gets sympathy from the US government.

To protect Sudanese people based on the passed resolution of the UN, a peacekeeping force was implemented by the African Union. Unfortunately, this peacekeeping force inched closer toward its goal; thereof this mission was not successful. At the end, volunteers all over the world from different non-government organizations, including human rights organizations such as Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, are drafted to help people in Sudan.

In fact, to resolve conflict in Sudan is extremely complicated and tough. Several reasons contribute to the unrest in Sudan, including fighting for land, water, oil, and energy resources, population explosion, draught and desertification, conflicts among different tribes, disproportionate access to resources, and the oppositions between the Chinese and the US governments over this issue, etc.

Darfur was an independent kingdom in early days currently with an area of 510,000 squares kilometers and population of 6 million. The major problem in this area stemmed from Black African and Arabs’ striving for natural resources. Moreover, China, disregarding objections from international societies, continues its financial support as well as supplies to the Sudanese government; this costs even more causalities.

Responses from the international community

In the upcoming Olympics game in 2008, China’s stance toward Sudan’s situation may be attacked by the human rights organizations. The image of China may also be harmed by its continuous financial and military support to the Sudanese government. The leader of Socialist party in France, Segolene Royal, proposed to boycott Beijing’s Olympics game. In addition, Cecilia Sarkozy, the current President of France, criticized China’s acts toward the Sudanese Government. Angela Markel, the Chancellor of Germany, also condemned China for its human rights policy during his visit to China. China’s policy toward Darfur along with Beijing’s Olympics games in 2008 has been a hot issue in international societies. At any rate, whether China will change its stance in Sudan’s situation also tests the morality and conscience of international societies.

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