Two weeks ago, Britain introduced a toughly worded Presidential Statement at the U.N. Security Council, demanding that Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime turn over two gnocidaires to the International Criminal Court. The first, Ahmed Haroun, who, in a grotesque bit of irony, now serves as Sudan’s minister of humanitarian affairs, is accused of having directly orchestrated many of the vicious crimes documented by the U.N. and independent human rights organizations in Darfur. Similarly, Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed militia leader, is deeply implicated in the most egregious violations of international law–targeted ethnic slaughter and the use of rape as a weapon of war among them.
The Presidential Statement should’ve easily passed: The evidence against both men is strong, and because of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593, the ICC has jurisdiction over the matter. What ended up happening, though, was hardly a surprise to anyone who has watched Darfur closely over the last five years. China threatened to veto the non-binding declaration unless its language was essentially gutted, and rather than force the issue, Britain, France, and the U.S.–as well as the other Security Council members–quietly decided to drop the matter. As a result, not only will Haroun and Kushayb remain free, but the government in Khartoum will feel as if it can block the extradition of those subsequently accused by the Court. The ICC just lost its teeth.
This under-reported development provides yet another example of China’s enabling role in the Darfur genocide. The crimes that China has abetted in Sudan are almost certainly too numerous to detail in any one place, but, here, for easy documentation, is a prcis of how the country has come to have the blood of more than 400,000 Darfuris on its hands.
INVESTING IN OIL. First things first: We have to settle the question of why China has made itself such a willing accomplice. One needn’t go much further than the oil fields in the southern part of Sudan to find the answer. Over the last decade, with its economy booming and its need for cheap fossil fuels climbing at a fantastic clip, China has been Khartoum’s primary partner in oil development projects. Of the 500,000 barrels of oil Sudan produces every day, China imports roughly two thirds. That would translate into more than $7 billion a year in costs, if the oil were purchased on the open market. But because China dominates the two major oil production consortia in southern Sudan, Beijing’s petroleum bill was only slightly more than half that. It’s no wonder the Chinese have been so keen on funneling money–some $10 billion–into Sudanese oil infrastructure projects like pipeline construction, all-weather road building, and exploration rigs. Don’t expect the relationship to change any time soon either: China’s petroleum import bill has risen by more than 10% per year for more than a decade and shows no signs of slowing.
LUBRICATING A GENOCIDAL ECONOMY. In addition to its massive investment in oil development, Beijing has provided more than $6 billion dollars in other commercial and capital investments. Much of the money has been poured into huge dam projects, including the environmentally irresponsible Merowe and Kajbar dams in the northern reaches of the country. Civilian displacement and violent repression of protests in the Nubia region–a direct result of these dam projects–have done nothing to dissuade further investment.
China has also put significant money into Khartoum’s rail line, port capacity, and the civilian road system that surrounds Khartoum. These investments, some apparently positive, have provided a critical financial bridge for an economy that is plagued by massive external debt–currently more than $25 billion, making Sudan’s economy, on a per capita basis, one of the most indebted in the world. In fact, it is misleading to speak of a “Sudanese economy”: foreign investment benefits almost exclusively Khartoum and its immediate environs. (The electricity generated by the dams mentioned above, for example, will only benefit only the areas in and around Khartoum.) The rest of Sudan, Africa’s largest country, sees almost nothing of this investment or the economic development that is so conspicuous in Khartoum itself. What’s more, the Sudanese companies that benefit most from Chinese investments are controlled, either directly or indirectly, by members of the National Islamic Front, further strengthening the regime’s stranglehold on Sudanese national wealth and power.
SUPPLYING WEAPONS. Since 1996, Beijing has been Khartoum’s primary supplier of weapons, military supplies, and weapons technology. Using Chinese-generated oil revenues (and anticipated oil revenues), Khartoum has purchased large quantities of military aircraft, heavy artillery, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and much else that fills the deadly arsenal destined for Darfur. China also helped to improve the regime’s production capacity, with the effect that Khartoum is now largely self-sufficient in building small- and medium-sized weapons.
Both China and Russia were cited in a May 2007 Amnesty International report on Darfur that highlighted irresponsible weapons transfers. The group discovered that both countries had shipped air-to-ground fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships to Sudan, despite a U.N. weapons embargo. And a June 2007 Amnesty report on China’s international arms transfers, drawing on the work of the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, highlighted the shipment to Khartoum of Dong Feng military trucks, the very sort implicated in some of the worst mass executions of ethnic African tribal groups in Darfur.
When asked about these vast weapons shipments, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu replied, “In conducting arms sales to African, we carefully consider the local area’s situation and development model and stick to the spirit of protecting local peace and stability.” By “protecting local peace and stability,” she no doubt was referring to Darfur’s millions of displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of war dead.
FLEXING ITS DIPLOMATIC MUSCLE AT THE UN. For the past five years, China has played lead blocker for the National Islamic Front regime at the U.N. This semi-official blessing from a permanent member of the Security Council has allowed Khartoum to defy a host of U.N. demands and continue with its genocide. Take a look at this rundown of failed U.N. attempts at peace:
Resolution 1556 (July 2004) “demanded” that Khartoum disarm the deadly Janjaweed militia and bring its leaders to justice. China abstained on the resolution, and Khartoum subsequently ignored it, surmising correctly that the international community would have no stomach to back up this “demand” with threats or action.
Resolution 1591 (March 2005) imposed an arms embargo on Darfur. China abstained in the vote and Khartoum continues to bring huge quantities of weapons and military supplies into Darfur. China has also opposed any effort to sanction Khartoum for violating the U.N. resolution.
Resolution 1593 (March 2005) referred “crimes against humanity” reported by a U.N. panel to the International Criminal Court. China abstained, and Khartoum has subsequently shown nothing but contempt for the ICC.
Resolution 1706 (August 2006) authorized more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers and civilian police to protect civilians and humanitarian workers in Darfur. China abstained, and would have vetoed the measure had language not been inserted that “invited” the consent of the Khartoum regime. The National Islamic Front declined the “invitation” and refused to accept the U.N. peacekeeping force. China supported Khartoum’s defiance by declaring its belief in “non-interference” in the domestic matters of sovereign nations.
Resolution 1769 (July 2007) was a weakened substitute for 1706. The idea was to authorize a “hybrid” U.N./African Union force of some 26,000 troops and civilian police to protect civilians and humanitarians. China eventually voted for the resolution, but only after stripping it of a mandate to disarm combatants. China also refused to approve any sanctions measure in the inevitable event of Khartoum’s non-compliance with the terms of 1769.
U.N. sources tell me that since the passage of Resolution 1769, China has become more, not less, supportive of Khartoum’s broad defiance of the international community. This stance has brought deployment of U.N.-authorized forces to a standstill, and continues to impede humanitarian aid delivery. Indeed, there is a real danger that the entire U.N./African Union mission will be aborted, precipitating a collapse in security throughout Darfur. As Jean-Marie Guhenno, head of U.N. peacekeeping, recently asked, “Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations, and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?”
Once again, it appears as if China will have quietly strong-armed the U.N. into getting exactly what it wants.
IT TAKES GREAT confidence to engage in long-term genocide before the world’s eyes. China–diplomatically, economically, militarily–has done much to provide Khartoum with that confidence. If the world community wants the genocide to end, the Chinese government must be made to understand that it will lose more by helping to perpetuate the horror in Darfur than it will gain by supporting Khartoum.
[Eric Reeves is author of “A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide”]