Peace for Darfur?

Could China be behind the genocide in Darfur?

This month the government of Sudan and one of the three main rebel movements signed a peace agreement. While the agreement has been heralded by politicians as an important step forward, it remains to be seen if the agreement will have a significant impact in the war-torn region of Darfur. Humanitarian agencies estimate that more than 300,000 people have died as a result of the conflict and 2 million more have been forced to flee their homes. 

The African Union has dispatched a force of 7,000 troops to monitor the situation in Darfur. However the force is under-manned and ill-equipped to handle the job. According to a New York Times report “Taking reports and making patrols is nearly all the African Union is mandated to do. Since arriving in 2004, the African Union force has been here to monitor - but not enforce - the cease-fire agreement signed between the rebels and the government...The African Union force is small enough that, spread out, each soldier would oversee an area larger than Manhattan. By contrast, tiny Liberia, which is slightly less than one-quarter the size of Darfur and has a population half of Darfur’s six million, has a United Nations peacekeeping force of 15,000 troops.”

If the situation in Sudan is really as bad as humanitarian groups say it is, why hasn’t something been done to stop the atrocities? Why hasn’t the UN sent a peacekeeping force to the region? The answer to this question can perhaps be found in Sudan’s massive oil reserves. When Sudan began producing oil in 1999, its government began collecting $500 million a year in revenue (about 80 percent of which went to buy weapons). Sudan’s oil minister inaugurated its newest pipeline in April which will raise oil production to 500,000 barrels per day and provides a structure to potentially double output in the coming year. If Sudan’s reserves are really as big as experts suspect, Sudan has the potential to collect tens of billions of dollars a year in oil revenue.

So who has benefited the most from Sudan’s new found oil wealth? China is, by far, the single biggest consumer of Sudanese oil. China’s transformation from an insular, agrarian society into a key force in the global economy has spawned a voracious appetite for raw materials. The pressure to find new sources of oil has grown as China has swelled into the world’s second-largest consumer and as production at the largest of its domestic fields is declining. According to government statistics, China’s imports have grown from about 6 percent of its oil needs a decade ago to roughly one-third today and are forecast to rise to rise to 60 percent by 2020.

The Darfur region is known to have major yet untapped oil reserves, representing a vast amount of potential wealth at a time when crude oil has risen to nearly $75 a barrel. The China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), owned by the Chinese government, has invested over $300 million in an expansion of Sudan’s largest refinery, doubling its output. The refinery now supplies most of Sudan’s petroleum needs. The CNPC began oil production at a field in southern Darfur in 2004 and it holds a large share in Sudan’s southern oil fields. Another Chinese firm, Sinopec Corp., built a 1,000-mile pipeline from that complex to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where China’s Petroleum Engineering Construction Group has built a tanker terminal. All in all, China buys about two-thirds of Sudan’s oil.

Sudan is China’s largest overseas oil project. China is also Sudan’s largest supplier of arms. Chinese-made tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades have intensified Sudan’s internal strife.

From its seat on the United Nations Security Council, China has been Sudan’s chief diplomatic ally. In recent months, the council has attempted to pressure Sudan’s predominantly Arab government to protect the African tribes by threatening to sanction its oil sales. However China has used its veto power to stop any Security Council resolutions against Sudan, thus prolonging the cycle of violence in the region.

Please continue to pray daily for those who are suffering in Sudan.

To learn more about the roots of the conflict in Sudan, read the related article in the April 25 issue of the eNews titled ‘Pray for Sudan’.

Posted by Nuttshell on 05/22 at 10:33 AM in Blogging

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