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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 02-14-2008, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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China and the horn of Africa

China and Sudan: Natural partners?
By John Simpson
BBC News, Khartoum

There are times, wandering round Khartoum, when you might almost imagine yourself to be in China.

Construction is going on everywhere, and a lot of the buildings have huge Chinese characters on them.

Then there are the red-painted arches and the lanterns which are still around from the Chinese New Year.

The buses are Chinese. So are some of the posters.

Yet you see very few Chinese people. They seem to have instructions to stay indoors.

And they certainly do not want to be interviewed by BBC News.

We went round to the headquarters of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation, on a fine site overlooking the Blue Nile.

The head of public relations, who was Sudanese, agreed to be interviewed.

We were standing in front of the building, and he was just answering my second question, when there was an angry shout from one of the windows.

He hurried off, and came back a few seconds later.

"Sorry," he said sheepishly, "they say no." "Who do?" "The Chinese."

Immense influence

Secrecy seems to be a pattern here. President Hu Jintao came to Sudan last year and signed an apparently far-reaching agreement with the Sudanese president, Omar Bashir - yet the details were kept secret.

Few details are known of the deal signed by the countries
Not surprisingly, when the relationship between the two countries is under the microscope because of the fighting in Darfur, this kind of secrecy makes an easy target for China's critics.

There is a wide range of campaigners and groups, from the left to the religious right in the United States who focus on the Darfur issue.

Now they have been joined by Steven Spielberg and a raft of Nobel prize-winners and Olympic gold medallists.

All of them say China must use its immense influence here to oblige the Sudanese government to stop the massacres.

The US government, urged on by the Darfur lobby at home, has introduced sanctions against Sudan.

And it insists the massacres carried out by the ethnic Arab militia groups, the Janjaweed, amount to genocide.

There is absolutely no doubting the enormous clout the Chinese government has in Sudan.

Nobel laureates

Yet is the Sudanese government actually capable of stopping the Darfur massacres?

Even government officials here find it hard to deny that the Janjaweed had the support early on of the Sudanese government, which used it as a weapon in the civil war.

But they maintain now that the violence in Darfur is simply lawlessness and banditry. The authorities in Khartoum, they say, lack the forces to control them.

This is a job which only the new international force, Unamid, can perform.

Well, of course, the Khartoum government's case would be stronger if it had not given a ministerial job to Ahmed Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

And if it had not appointed a Janjaweed leader, Musa Hilal, to be a special adviser.

Still, I found the diplomats of various Western countries judged Sudan and the Chinese a little less harshly than the US, the Nobel laureates and Steven Spielberg.

Their view is that China is slowly coming round to see that it would be better to persuade Sudan to co-operate with the international community.

And they believe Sudan is not altogether happy to turn its back on Western countries, including the Americans.

"The West is a more natural partner for Sudan than China," one diplomat said, "and most Sudanese know it."

Well, maybe. But China is certainly busy setting its stamp on their country.

The biggest problems we are facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all and that’s what I intend to reverse.

~ Senator Barack H. Obama
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