By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 3, 2007
Despite almost universal world condemnation of the government of Khartoum in Sudan over the starvation and human rights abuses in the Darfur region of that nation, China continues to very publicly send the world the middle finger.
President Hu Jintao made his first visit to the Sudan Friday. Some had hoped that President Hu and China might speak out against what the U.S. has called the “genocide” in Darfur.
“I am confident this visit will facilitate a strengthening of the traditional friendship between China and Sudan and bring cooperation between the countries to a new level,” President Hu said in a statement upon his arrival. He also mentioned strengthening economic ties.
President Hu made no public remarks about Darfur.
Zhang Dong, China’s ambassador to Khartoum, told Xinhua news agency on Thursday that China “never interferes in Sudan’s internal affairs”.
Even thought the war in Sudan ended in 2005, the conflict in Darfur is estimated to have caused the deaths of some 200,000 people (some say as many as 450,000) and made more than 2 million homeless.
Billions of dollars of Chinese investment, particularly in the oil sector, have provided crucial support to President Omar al-Bashir’s regime, enabling it to join the ranks of oil exporters and improve decaying infrastructure.
But the Associated Press said: “Chinese President Hu Jintao urged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Friday to work harder to bring more Darfur rebels into the peace process, according to a Sudanese official. Hu is said to have raised the issue at a closed-door meeting during his landmark visit, the first ever by a Chinese president. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Hu told Bashir that his “government should work more earnestly to get the rebels who did not sign the Darfur peace agreement to join the peace process.”
Chinese workers living in Sudan to help build Chinese projects like the huge hydro-electric plant and oil terminal lined the streets to greet their president.
Thousands of Chinese expatriates live in Sudan, working on construction projects including a giant oil refinery.
When President Hu visited the oil refinery, around 47 miles north of Khartoum, hundreds of uniformed Chinese workers wearing yellow and blue hard hats lined the streets to greet him.
The refinery processes around 100,000 barrels of crude per day.
Sudan’s Islamic government, under U.S. sanctions, has relied on its Asian ally to expand oil production to 330,000 barrels per day and build key infrastructure like dams and roads.
Sudan’s economy, which is expected to grow at a rate of 13 percent this year, has benefited from Chinese investment.
Sudan is China’s fourth-largest source of crude oil imports, behind South Africa and Angola.
China’s “no strings attached” aid policy throughout Africa runs counter to U.S. policy and has raised concern in the West. U.S. officials told us it could undermine efforts to link good government, accountability and protection of human rights to financial aid and cooperation, which is U.S. policy.
China’s approach has raised special concerns in Sudan.
More than any other nation the United States in has pressed China to use its economic muscle to persuade Khartoum to end atrocities in the Darfur region, where four years of war have killed about 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes.
Sudan sells much of its crude to China. Chinese arms are used by all sides in the Darfur conflict, despite an arms embargo on the region.
China also provides diplomatic protection for Sudan on the U.N. Security Council, which is engaged in a standoff with Khartoum over a U.N. peacekeeping mission for Darfur.
Hu’s statement made no mention of Darfur or the violence in Sudan’s western desert region and few believe Hu will use his first visit to Sudan to press his hosts on rights abuses.
“The blunt truth is China hasn’t begun to use any of the irresistible diplomatic, economic and political leverage it has with the Khartoum regime,” said U.S. Darfur expert Eric Reeves.
“And until it does, there will be … no halt to the intolerable deterioration in security for civilians and humanitarians.”
China will host the 2008 Olympics, and human rights activists are campaigning for a boycott of the Games if China does not use its permanent seat on the Security Council to put pressure on Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.
Hu is on an eight-nation tour of Africa to strengthen ties in a period marked by huge Chinese demand for raw materials for its rapid industrial expansion.
China has been offering low interest loans, debt relief and other incentives to increase its influence on the world’s poorest continent in return for access to the natural resources it needs to feed its booming economy.
“China and Africa have developed mutually respectful and beneficial relations over the years,” Hu said at a banquet thrown by President Paul Biya of Cameroon, in a speech broadcast on state television and radio this week.
“China and Africa have never tried to impose their social and economic development models on others,” Hu added.
Hu, who also toured Africa last year, met Biya to discuss social aid programs for clean drinking water and cheap housing.
“Through you, I invite Chinese companies to come and invest in Cameroon, especially in hydrocarbons such as gas and oil, mineral exploitation and forestry, where numerous opportunities exist,” Biya said at a working session with Hu.
Background on Darfur
From the July 14, 2004 edition of the Christian Science Monitor
Racism at root of Sudan's Darfur crisis
By Makau Mutua BUFFALO, N.Y. – The visits by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Sudan last week gave hope that the genocide in Darfur can be arrested before an entire people is obliterated.
But anyone - including Mr. Powell and Mr. Annan - interested in averting more tragedy there must understand that Darfur is not an accidental apocalypse of mass slaughters, enslavement, pillage, and ethnic cleansing. The Darfur pogrom is part of a historic continuum in which successive Arab governments have sought to entirely destroy black Africans in this biracial nation.
Darfur is not a mere humanitarian disaster that access by international relief agencies can reverse. The raison d'être of the atrocities committed by government-supported Arab militias is the racist, fundamentalist, and undemocratic Sudanese state. What is required for peace in Sudan is either regime change, in which a democratic, inclusive state is born, or a partition, in which the black African south and west become an independent sovereign state free of Khartoum and the Arab north.
Sudan, like most African postcolonial states, is partially a victim of imperial cartography. Thoughtlessly carved out by the British during the 19th-century scramble to claim Africa, Sudan is a forced crucible of Muslim Arabs and black Africans. The blacks in the south either hew to their ancestral traditional African religions or have converted to Christianity. The fact that black Africans in Darfur are exclusively Muslim has not stopped the Arab Janjaweed militias and the government from exterminating them.
Race - not religion - is the fundamental fault line in Sudan, though religion has certainly added fuel to the fire in the south. Indeed, since independence from the British in 1956, the demon of Sudan has been race. The Arab north, except for brief periods when token Africans were included in government, has exclusively held political and military power. To protest political exclusion, military repression, enslavement, and economic exploitation, Africans in the south rose against the state several years after independence.
Since 1983, the armed insurrection in the south has drawn a scorched earth response from Khartoum. President Omar Bashir and his fundamentalist Islamic government declared a holy war against African groups in the south - the Dinka, Nuba, and Neur peoples. More than 2 million people have been decimated, millions more have been internally displaced, and hordes have been exiled.
Khartoum's genocidal policy in Darfur and the south is also a grab for resources. The Arab north is arid and barren, but the south is arable with vast oil deposits Khartoum covets and badly needs. In the west, in Darfur, Arabs seeking to escape the spreading desert kill and displace Africans for more productive land.
But there is a reality check. Khartoum has been unable to vanquish Africans militarily in the south. That's why Khartoum now appears ready to conclude its peace agreement with the south. But just as the guns are about to fall silent in the south, Arabs in Darfur have killed at least 30,000 Africans and displaced more than a million from their homes and villages.
Both the US and UN through Powell and Annan - whose mediators and proxies, particularly Kenya, are helping broker the peace deal - must make it clear to President Bashir that the accord between Khartoum and the south won't stop the diplomatic isolation and international condemnation of Sudan unless it ends its genocidal policies in Darfur and allows aid workers to care for victims and assist their return home. Both Powell and Annan must speed up work on a UN resolution to condemn the atrocities in Darfur and the south, and to impose sanctions on the Sudanese government and its leaders.
The African Union (AU), the continental body of Arab and black African states, must end the hypocrisy in Afro-Arab relations. Sudan, the bridge between black and Arab Africa, should lead in rewriting the historical script between the two peoples. Since the slave trade era, Arabs have violated and dominated Africans. Yet the Organization of African Unity, the AU predecessor, ducked these inequities under the doctrine of noninterference in the internal affairs of sister states.
The AU has stayed that odious course. It's telling that the AU has not denounced Sudan for the Darfur atrocities. And, at its annual summit in Addis Ababa last week, the AU declared that the Darfur killings did not amount to genocide. Although the killings clearly meet that definition according to the Genocide Convention, unfortunately Powell also failed last week to declare that the Darfur killings meet the definition of genocide. The AU offer to send just 300 soldiers to Darfur to protect aid workers, monitors, and civilians from Arab militiamen - in an area the size of France - demonstrates lack of political will to confront Sudan.
Important, too, is that Arab states should condemn Sudan; otherwise their anger over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rings hollow. How can they protest the killing of Palestinians when their kin exterminate Africans in Sudan?
The tragedy of Darfur wouldn't be permitted if it were taking place in Europe. But African states must take advantage of the interest by the UN and the US to bring about maximum diplomatic and economic pressure, including sanctions, to hasten regime change in Sudan. Khartoum must be put on notice that only an open and inclusive democracy will save it from partition into two states, one black African, the other Arab.
• Makau Mutua is professor of law and director of the Human Rights Center at the State University of New York at Buffalo.