Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Darfur: Proxy War Over Good Governance Unfolding

If the controversial report about Chinese and Russian arms shipments to Sudan in breach of a UN embargo are true, then this post about the rising Chinese influence in Africa seems properly wrought, including the pointy title part about "Proxy Wars Over Good Governance". From the AP via the cutely named Seattle Post Intelligencer:
A top human rights group accused China and Russia on Tuesday of violating a U.N. arms embargo by supplying Sudan with weapons and equipment that were used to fuel deadly violence against civilians in Darfur and neighboring Chad. (...) The report said "the bulk" of the arms used in Darfur and Chad were transferred from China and Russia, with Sudan importing $83 million in arms from Beijing and $34.7 million in military equipment from Moscow in 2005, the latest available figures. It did not provide specific up-to-date figures. "The irresponsible transfer of arms to Sudan and its neighbors are a significant factor in the massive human rights catastrophe in Darfur and its spread into eastern Chad," London-based Amnesty said in a statement. (...)

Amnesty said it was particularly concerned about Russian Mi-24 helicopter gunships acquired by the Sudan air force that were allegedly being used to launch attacks in Darfur. The report included a photo, allegedly from March, of three Chinese "Fantan" fighter jets on the tarmac of an airport in Nyala in southern Darfur. It said the aircraft were "specifically designed to be used for ground attack operations." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing does not sell arms to regions under a U.N. embargo. She said China's weapons sales to Africa were made to sovereign nations and were "very limited and small in scale" but refused to say specifically how much was sold to Sudan. (...)

The Amnesty report followed the leaking of a U.N. report last month asserting that Sudan's government was flying attack aircraft, painted white to resemble U.N. planes, and other military equipment into Darfur against the embargo. Sudan denied the claims. Following that report, the U.S. and Britain began leading a push for new sanctions against Sudan if it continues to refuse to deploy U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur. An ill-equipped and understaffed African Union force is patrolling the western Sudan region. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has refused calls for a joint U.N.-AU force, although he recently agreed to let the U.N. send 3,000 peacekeepers to Darfur, backed by six helicopter gunships.

Both Russia and China, which have close trade ties with Sudan, oppose the U.S.-British sanctions proposal. China - which buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports - is facing increasing international pressure to use its influence in Sudan to pressure Khartoum into stopping the violence. "Nobody has the leverage that the Chinese do - not the Arab League, not the U.S., not the EU. It's the Chinese; they're the ones," said Eric Reeves, a Sudan expert at Smith College in Massachusetts.

From the post from April 2006:

China's recent African Policy document outlines an extensive interest in engaging in African development. The most notable difference from Western development policies is the absence of good governance as a leitmotiv -- and its logical counterpart, the adherence to the "Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence". The Principles support non-interference: as such they are at odds with the essence of Western development policy which posits that there can be universally applicable most-effective ways of undertaking government, i.e. "good governance". (...) [T]he most crucial countries are the natural ressource rich kleptocracies that from the outset will be least inclined to ever participate in good governance initiatives. Here, the intention of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative already suffers from combination of the Chinese need for oil and the willfully blind perspective of the Five Principles. In short, the good governance agenda looks set to really suffer from China's African engagement. And unfortunately, that effect will be the same elsewhere too.
If the Chinese (and Russians) are really flushing weapons - including gunships and A10-like fixed-wing aircraft - into Sudan in spite of the UN embargo, this is a clear example of a proxy war in spe. Even if the responsible partners in global security management (UN, NATO) are struggling to find the ressources necessary to help stop the conflict, there is no doubt - viz. the embargo - that these same actors agree about the basic goals and values that the challenge represents. How ironic that I meant the 'proxy wars' over good governance to be taken mostly metaphorically. China must step up to the plate of responsibility here - but as written in the post quoted, this is unlike to to happen as long as there is something as the five principles (and a craving for ressources).

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