Friday, February 16, 2007

Genocide in Darfur - The Chinese Connection

As Nick Kristof recently reminded us, the genocidal regime in Khartoum is vulnerable to political, diplomatic, and economic pressure through its foreign backers, supporters, and protectors (see Targeted economic pressure on Khartoum CAN help Darfur). In this respect, the most important single actor is China, which has a massive involvement in Sudan's oil industry and provides crucial diplomatic cover for the Sudanese government in the UN Security Council and elsewhere.

China's oil companies trade on western stock markets, which makes them suitable targets for carefully focused divestment strategies and other activist campaigns to raise public awareness of the key role they play in enabling the Darfur atrocity. And, more generally, the Chinese government should be made to suffer increased political and diplomatic embarrassment unless it moderates its support for the génocidaires in Khartoum.

For example, the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing will draw increasing world attention to China, and they're clearly very important to the Chinese regime from a public-relations point of view, so this may make the government especially sensitive about having China's public image linked to mass murder in Africa. People concerned about stopping this ongong mass murder should try to use every possible bit of political leverage this might afford.

These were among the points emphasized in an important recent analysis by Eric Reeves, in which he addressed the question of "Why the regime remains so confident the genocidal status quo is unthreatened". Here are some highlights:
In understanding why Khartoum remains resolutely opposed to significant numbers of UN peace support personnel in Darfur, it is first of all critical to make sense of just what the National Islamic Front regime sees as it surveys the international scene. What is there, we must ask, that convinces these brutal génocidaires that they will pay no price for the ongoing, indiscriminate bombing of civilians in North Darfur? for the large-scale, violent displacement of thousands of civilians in West Darfur reported by humanitarian organizations in recent days? Which diplomatic realities secure this racist security cabal in its belief that it can continue to re-mobilize and heavily re-arm the Janjaweed without consequence---despite the UN Security Council “demand” of July 2004 that these brutal militias be disarmed and their leaders brought to justice? What forms of diffidence and cowardice among African and Western nations convince Khartoum’s thugs that despite the direst of warnings coming from UN and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations in Darfur---speaking bluntly about intolerable levels of insecurity---they may continue to beat, intimidate, harass, and obstruct aid workers in Darfur?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors that reinforce their complacency. However:
China is of course the most reassuring part of the international scene from the perspective of Khartoum’s génocidaires. China has provided Khartoum more than $10 billion in commercial and capital investments over the past decade, even as it has been the regime’s primary supplier of weapons, weapons technology, and weapons engineering expertise. Much of the weaponry in Darfur is from China, or is of Chinese design and manufactured in Khartoum. China is also the dominant player in oil development and exploration in southern Sudan, with the largest stakes in the producing consortia of both Eastern and Western Upper Nile; these are the regions where Khartoum-backed militia pose the greatest threat to the north/south peace agreement of January 2005. Some of these brutal militias have been hired to provide security for Chinese oil workers, even as all militia forces were to have been disbanded or incorporated into regular military forces by January 1, 2006.

And of course, China has offered Khartoum unstinting diplomatic cover at the UN, where it wields veto power on the Security Council. China abstained on UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (August 31, 2006), which authorized---under Chapter VII of the UN Charter---deployment of 17,300 troops, 3,300 civilian police, and 16 Formed Police Units. The forces deployed would have had robust rules of engagement, and a specific mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians. China effectively eviscerated the resolution by insisting on language that specifically “invites the consent of” the very génocidaires whose ethnically-targeted destruction had created the need for this huge force. In the event, despite language merely “inviting” Khartoum’s consent, this passage has been construed by the international community as conferring upon those responsible for the Darfur genocide the power to veto forces that might end or at least mitigate genocidal destruction. And no international actor has been more consequential in creating, and sustaining, this perverse state of affairs than China.

For the simple truth is that China views Sudan through the prism of petroleum needs---it consumes almost two-thirds of Sudan’s crude oil exports---and the growing value of trade and other economic ties with Khartoum. Of course the portion of Sudan that sees any rewards from Chinese investment is miniscule: a small sliver of the Nile River Valley (including Khartoum, Omdurman, and their suburbs) enjoys almost exclusive benefit from China’s presence and investment in Sudan.

China will not be moved from its present callous and unqualified support of Khartoum without a major investment of diplomatic and political energies by Western nations, preeminently the US. Such investment is nowhere in sight, and the recent trip to Beijing by Andrew Natsios merely confirms this geostrategic marginalizing of Darfur. [....] To be sure, Beijing has come in for sufficient criticism over Darfur that it has learned to mouth the diplomatic noises that seem to deflect a good deal of the harshest language [....] But the blunt truth is that China hasn’t begun to use any of the irresistible diplomatic, economic, and political leverage it has with the Khartoum regime. And until it does, there will be no change in the genocidal status quo in Darfur---no halt to the intolerable deterioration in security for civilians and humanitarians. [....]

In turn, all that can persuade Khartoum to allow in the international forces that might have the ability to provide security for civilians and humanitarians is a fundamental shift in the diplomatic dynamic at the Security Council. Here, given current strategic equities, all necessary pressure must be brought to bear on China, which alone has the power to force a re-thinking on Khartoum’s part. This is the significance of the unfolding campaign to hold Beijing accountable for its callous indifference, and ultimately for its complicity in the Darfur genocide. Indeed, China’s complicity is even now beginning to be highlighted by advocacy groups around the world, with a rapidly sharpening focus:

The message will be at once simple and utterly unrelenting: unless China’s uses its unrivalled influence with Khartoum to secure consent for an international peace support operation in Darfur, the 2008 Olympic Games will become the relentless platform to expose and excoriate Beijing’s complicity in the Darfur genocide. China may have selected its own Olympics motto, “One world, one dream.” But until the dream of peace is realized, until Darfur is also part of this “one world,” China will confront a very different motto---at every turn, on every occasion, on every continent, and indeed in China itself: “Genocide Olympics?
For more on the activist campaign to target China through its "Genocide Olympics", see HERE.

--Jeff Weintraub
Sudan Tribune
January 26, 2007
Understanding Genocide in Darfur: The View from Khartoum
By Eric Reeves

Why the regime remains so confident the genocidal status quo is unthreatened

[The full piece is HERE.]

Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has published extensively on Sudan. He can be reached at; website :