The Darfur crisis is one of most controversial conflicts in the world where blame games continue as civilians lose their life while millions of others are displaced from their homes. The Darfur crisis can be traced back in 2003 when the Janjaweed militias adopted scotched earth policies and burned down villages and displacing civilians in Darfur region of china. In 2004, the Darfur conflict was declared the worst humanitarian crisis facing the world and in the same years, the conflict was declared as genocide. Darfur conflict is multifaceted but mineral wealth especially oil has been a major factor fueling the continued conflict. Although the conflict has been described on religious and ethnic dimensions, it basically involves the Arab Muslims attacking African Muslims.
Sudanese government has been blamed for the sponsoring the Janjaweed militias, who were recruited and armed by the government in response to attackers from SLA members who accused the government of under developing the Darfur region. Chinese government which holds the largest oil consortium in the region has also been blamed for selling weapons to the government of Sudan which are supplied to the Janjaweed militias to launch more attacks on the civilians. The international community has blamed china for pursuing to quest its thirst for natural resources without putting into considerations moral obligations towards obtaining those resources. As the blame game continue, China remain mum over the Darfur crisis and to date more than 300,000 civilians have lost their lives while 2.5 millions others have been displace. China, as leading market for more than 70 percent of oil which comes from Sudan must take up its moral obligation to force the government of Sudan to end the Darfur crisis. This paper would like to state that China should be held responsible for the Darfur crisis.
This paper will discuss the Darfur crisis and the involvement of China. The paper will review several articles which puts China on limelight over its involvement in Darfur conflict against Enver Mashud of the Wisdom Fund who claims that U.S and Britain are using the Darfur situation to criticize Chinese activities in African and to exploit the Sudan oil wealth considering that most of the western companies have been replaced by Chinese companies in Sudan oil belt. It will at other writers who have expressed different opinion from Enver Mashud.
Blame game in Darfur crisis and the role of China
There is clear evidence that Darfur crisis is driven by oil. Immediately after the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement in January 2005, seismological studies which were undertaken by foreign companies in April showed more oil reserves which doubled Sudan oil reserves to at least 563 million barrels. In the same month, ABCO Corporation started drilling oil from Darfur regions which added a twist in the two year old conflict. Immediately the conflict intensified with the militias adopting a scotched earth policy which drove more than 2 million people from their homes. It is theorized that this was carried out in order to drive Africans from their home so that the land could be controlled by the Sudanese government to facilitate oil exploitation (Morse, 2005). Although the initial break out of the conflict was to call for the inclusion of the Darfur region in the central government and end marginalization, this discovery of oil took a new turn with the government acquiring new military equipments from China in order to fight rebels in Sudan and facilitate exploitation of oil. According to Hilary Anderson (2008), BBC has already established evidence the China is involved in supplying military equipment in Darfur region despite the UN embargo. IN 2008, the Panaroma TV program tracked down Chinese Dong Feng military tracks in Darfur region.
Mashud (2004) argues that the situation in Darfur is tragic but it cannot be declared as genocide yet. He further clarifies that oil wealth in the region is the main target that is being used by the Western countries to justify for military intervention in Darfur. According to Mashud, Sudan has a population of 40 million people of whom 70% are Sunni Muslims, 25% are indigenous beliefs, and 5% are Christians. The Darfur conflict has seen African Muslims killing African Muslims in a tragic war fare which does not qualify to be called genocide. It is a systemic destruction of national, racial, ethnic and religious group which is sponsored by the government of Sudan. Mashud claim that the government of Sudan has orchestrated the killings is in line with the recent warrant of arrest issued by ICCJ over the role played by Sudanese president El Bashir in the crisis.
This shows that Mashud believes that the government of Sudan, rather than China, is to blame to for the continued maiming and killing of civilians by the Janjaweed militias. He further shows that Tension in Darfur began in the early 1970s orchestrated by droughts and scarce resources. In most occasions, the nomads invaded lands which had been settled by the subsistence farming Darfur community.
However the conflict took a new turn with the 2003 signing of a peace agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in southern Sudan when the tribes in Darfur rebelled against the Khartoum government for failing to develop the Darfur region. These rebel groups hoped that they would also strike a peace and developed deal with the government like the Southern Sudan. However the government retaliated by sponsoring Janjaweed militias which was a loose militias group formed by the local tribesmen. It was clear that the government of Southern Sudan had lost a sizable mineral resource in Southern Sudan and it was not willing to lose the same resources in Darfur which is also very rich in oil and minerals.
Mashud claims that there has been an upper hand of the US and Britain government in the forcing UN sanctions in the Darfur region. Under Koffi Anan, US and Britain pushed for 90 days period to end the conflict under which the Southern Sudan government was given only 30 days to end the conflict. However Mashud shows that there has been continued US activities since 1996 which showed its willingness to exploit the Sudanese oil resources. For example in 1996, US spent more than $20 million in surplus military equipments in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda in order to topple the Sudanese government.
It appears that U.S and Britain are in rough competition with China for control of Sudan oil. According to Mashud there is more than maiming and killing of civilians by Janjaweed militias. The militias have more advanced military equipment than the government of Sudan which shows that there is more interference in the crisis. The recent UN report showed that the Janjaweed militias are getting supplies outside Sudan. There are some important questions that Mashud does not take into consideration here. First, he has not answered the source of funds for Khartoum government to fund the militias. Second he has not looked closely into the involvement of China as a major buyer of Sudan oil. Let us look at other writers’ view of the crisis.
Mashud claim can be refuted by a number of writers who perceives China as a direct and an indirect player in the crisis. China is so far the largest beneficiary of Sudan oil wealth the largest oil consortium in Darfur region of China. Qian and Wu (2007) assert that China is playing delicate role in the crisis and it seems not aware or rather it is turning a deaf ear to the calls from the international community to end the crisis.
Although Qian and Wu shows China interferences in the crisis, they are quick to point out the there is no much difference between Chinese approach to the crisis and the approach that has been taken by western countries. They argue that Beijing is as concerned with the problem in Darfur same as the rest of the world but unlike the west which has taken punitive measures by withdrawing their companies drilling oil in the region, China has not taken that path. Instead, China has taken a strategy that is aimed at fostering humanitarian and development carrying with it a policy of non interference. They give the example of the recent visit by Chinese president Hu Jintao to Sudan and the dispatch of special envoy on African affairs to show that far away from the blame game, China has been making tactical move which are aimed at pressing the Khartoum government to act as requested by the International community. If anything, China needs to be credited for having crafted the base of Sudan government acceptance of UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur.
The approach taken by these authors is more like Mashud approach but also blame the Chinese government for the crisis. They assert that China has a long view of the crisis and believes that the root cause of the crisis is poverty and lack of resources. The two aspects have conspired to foster decades of fighting between the local tribe for the basic necessities to survive. In a positive move, china has accepted to provide more than $10.4 million in humanitarian aid and has invested more than $30 million in dam projects in Darfur as well as building 120 schools to foster long term development of the region. It is however important for the writer to not that 70 percent of oil resources from Sudan are channeled towards military budget and therefore continued trading ties between Beijing and Khartoum provides the much needed fund for the Janjaweed militias.
However, this patronage has made Beijing a hostage of the international community. Chinas foreign policy is of political non-interferences which mean that it does not attach any political condition for the economic help to Khartoum. This may be the reasons why china is viewed reluctant on implementation of effective strategies that would end the Darfur crisis. The international community asserts that there is need to intertwine political and economic conditions to foster development. This means that China is caught in a delicate situation where it has to practice an influence without interferences and at the same time strives to maintain the trust of the Khartoum government.
However Chang (2007) has a more radical approach to the Chinese government role in the Darfur crisis. Chang does not agree with Mashud or with Qian and Wu that Chinese government is fostering development in Darfur. Chang gives an account of how the Beijing has colluded with the Khartoum government for continued arming of the Janjaweed militias who have brought havoc in Darfur. Chang asserts that there is a direct involvement of Beijing in the crisis in quest of its insatiable energy supply. Beijing government supports the Khartoum government which in turn funds and arms the Janjaweed militias. China is the largest trading partner with Khartoum government. Chinas purchase more than two thirds of the oil that is drilled in Sudan. in the same cause, we need to understand that more than 70% of the Sudanese oil revenues are channeled towards military developed which has largely being involved in Darfur mass murder.
Chang further claim that the involvement of china in the crisis direct. As Sudan approach the 2011 referendum that will determine whether southern Sudan will get its autonomy, there have been claims of modernization of Khartoum military and China has been a strategic partner in the process. China has been selling arms and aircraft to Khartoum government which is against the UN arms embargo. The United Nations has presented photos which show that Khartoum government has continued to deploy weapons in Darfur which is a breach of the UN arms embargo in the region.
Chang (2007) also shows that China has been using its permanent seat in the Security Council in order to shield Khartoum from actions by the international community. This in a way shows that China is supporting the continued atrocity against citizens by the Khartoum government. It has been argued that Beijing is a unique position end the cycles of violence that has led to loss of lives in Darfur. Beijing has a lot of military and political influence over the Khartoum government which means it is in a position to end the Darfur calamity. With China Nation Petroleum Corp holding a 40% share in the international consortium which drills oil in Sudan, there is not doubt that China has a lot of influence that can change the course of Darfur crisis.
However Abramowitz and Kolieb (2007) belief that china won’t save Darfur. The problem is more complex than the perceived economic leverage of china to whip Khartoum government to accept the condition set by international community. There is the old problem of resource scarcity and distribution but the international community may be using China as a scapegoat from its failure to ensure human rights adherence. After all, the world governance bodies have tolerated Beijing human right abuses as they wait for a reformed China and China has continued to exploit energy for its mushrooming economy. The west has moral and human rights stand that Beijing has never had. Therefore the international community must act and stop the blame game to force china and Khartoum to end the Darfur crisis. Although the authors agree on the role of Beijing government on the crisis, the blame on the international community can be refuted on the ground that the western has done its parts including sanctioning the Khartoum government. However Beijing has used its position to shield the Khartoum government from these sanctions which shows that China is playing a direct and indirect role in the crisis.
Darfur crisis which began in 2003 has seen death of more than 300,000 people and displacement of more than 2.5 million. Darfur crisis has been declared as genocide by the international community and Beijing has been accused of playing a central role in the crisis. However China has continued to foster a foreign policy of non-interference in pursuit for energy for its mushrooming economy. However there are those who feel that the Khartoum government and the international community need to be blamed for the crisis. China purchase more than two third of Sudan oil and 70% of these revenues are channeled towards Sudan military. China has also been accused of selling arms and aircraft against the UN arms embargo in Darfur. China has also used its veto power in the Security Council in order to shield the Khartoum government from sanctions. China must cooperate with the international community in order to end the crisis. This paper would like to restate that China should be held responsible for the Darfur crisis.
Abramowitz, M. & Kolieb, J. (2007). Why China won’t save Darfur. Retrieved 26th December 2008 from http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3847
Andersion, H. (2008). China is fueling war in Darfur. . Retrieved 26th December 2008 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7503428.stm
Chang, G. (2007). Darfur – the china problem. Retrieved 26th December 2008 from http://www.nysun.com/opinion/darfur-the-china-problem/54555/
Mashud, E. (2004). Sudan, oil and the Darfur crisis. Retrieved 26th December 2008 from http://www.twf.org/News/Y2004/0807-Darfur.html
Morse, D. (2005). War of the future: Oil drives eth genocide in Darfur. . Retrieved 26th December 2008 from http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0819-26.htm
Qian, J. & Wu, X. (2007). China’s delicate role on Darfur. Retrieved 26th December 2008 from http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/1728/chinas_delicate_role_on_darfur.html