My previous article on the performance of Chinese peacekeepers in South Sudan mentioned that two Chinese soldiers were killed during the four days of violence in Juba, prompting the rest of the Chinese troops to run away from their posts. So the question is, who killed them? Up front, it would seem that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army i.e the army of the govt of South Sudan would have to be suspected, since it is they who were reported to have destroyed the UN compound in the vicinity of the Chinese post that was later abandoned by those manning it. But does the responsibility for these killings lie only with the SPLA? Digging a little deeper, things get murkier, and raise questions about the very nature of Chinese involvement in South Sudan. Firstly, let us see as to why the Chinese are there in South Sudan in the first place. The answer is of course, OIL.
As of 2012, China was consuming nearly 80% of South Sudan’s oil production. That being the case, for China sending peacekeepers to South Sudan makes sense – the need to ensure stability and tranquillity in a territory that is a major source of oil for its economy. But why is Sudan still in turmoil despite the Chinese presence there since the 1990s – a time when the USSR no longer existed, and the US was busy elsewhere, getting interested only when its pursuit of terrorists brought Sudan into focus. Part of the answer lies in the previous question itself – CHINA.
Ever since its outreach to Sudan, even before its partition, China has been arming various groups with reckless abandon and utter disregard to the human suffering brought about by the proliferation of weapons in the country, all in the hope of having overarching influence in a region that is a major source of oil. The human rights violations perpetrated in Sudan are well documented. Human Rights Watch mentioned in a 2003 report titled CHINA’S INVOLVEMENT IN SUDAN: ARMS AND OIL, that China supplied not only small arms but even helicopter gunships and tanks, in the hope of recovering the costs in terms of access to oil (more on that later in this blog).
Amnesty International has been even more pointed in its 2007 report, saying that “Africa has long been the victim of the greed of western governments and companies. Now, it faces a new challenge from China. The Chinese government and Chinese companies have shown little regard for their “human rights footprint” on the continent. The deference to national sovereignty, antipathy to human rights in foreign policy, and readiness to engage with abusive regimes, are all endearing China to African governments. But for those same reasons, African civil society has been less welcoming. The health and safety standards and treatment of workers by Chinese companies have fallen short of international standards. As the biggest consumer of Sudan’s oil and a major supplier of its weapons, China has shielded the Sudanese government against pressure from the international community”
It shows that far from wanting to help the former undivided Sudan, China has explicitly hurt it instead, by using its membership of the UNSC to veto action aimed at stopping genocide in Sudan. Though in 2007, under threat of an Olympic boycott, China mellowed on its stand, how long that lasted is anyone’s guess. In fact, far from acting against genocide, China actively sold weapons with which humanity was slaughtered in Sudan, as were, its own soldiers.
More recently, China has been called out for continuing to fuel the fire by supplying arms to South Sudan by this 2015 report from the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan. The report says places on record that China had continued to supply arms and ammo to South Sudan despite recent violence. And what was the ‘violence’ like? The reports says, “..all parties to the conflict have been targeting civilians as part of their military tactics… Scores of civilians have been killed, maimed, tortured, burned alive inside their homes, displaced, raped and abducted, and children have been recruited and used as part of the war effort..”
The situation has deteriorated dramatically since April 2015, when South Sudan’s military began a major offensive in the oil-rich Upper Nile region. “Since the offensive in the greater Upper Nile area began in April 2015, the intensity and brutality of the violence aimed at civilians are hitherto unseen, even in what has already been, without a doubt, an exceedingly violent conflict,” the report says. The report suggests that South Sudan’s government was emboldened by access to new military technologies – specifically helicopters and amphibious vehicles – and was trying to overwhelm the rebel forces.”
And guess where the bulk of that ‘new military technology’ comes from?
Bottomline – China has played a huge role in destabilizing the former undivided Sudan, all in the hope of access to its oil. For a country with perhaps the maximum clout in South Sudan lately, China has come up short on its respect for humanity and the lands that feed its growing thirst for oil.
Not making a statement here, but just wondering whether the bullet / shell that killed the Chinese peacekeepers and the weapon that fired it was, in fact, supplied by the Chinese themselves?
Oh, in the end, talking about oil, the conflict has taken a predictable toll on oil exports, with the UN panel saying oil production had dropped from 245,000 barrels per day in late 2013 to 163,000 bpd in July 2015. Perhaps, Chinese policies in South Sudan aren’t really working towards the goals they are supposed to.
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