China in Africa Round-up 07.17: Genocide By Proxy, Colonization Denied, and Anger Over Ivory

New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof applauds the International Criminal Court’s recent request for an arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, and turns his sights on China:

If China continues — it is the main supplier of arms used in the genocide — then it may itself be in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention. Article III of the convention declares that one of the punishable crimes is “complicity in genocide”; that’s the crime that China may be committing if it goes on supplying arms used for genocide, even after the I.C.C. has begun criminal proceedings against the purchaser of those weapons.

Beijing seems unabashed. Incredibly, China and Russia are acting as Mr. Bashir’s lawyers, quietly urging the United Nations Security Council to intervene to delay criminal proceedings against him. Such a delay is a bad idea, unless Mr. Bashir agrees to go into exile. […]

According to United Nations data, 88 percent of Sudan’s imported small arms come from China — and those Chinese sales of small arms increased 137-fold between 2001 and 2006. China has also sold military aircraft to Sudan, and the BBC reported this week that two Chinese-made A-5 Fantan fighter aircraft were spotted on a Darfur runway last month. The BBC also said that China is training Sudanese military pilots in Sudan.

Likewise, Human Rights First, in a report on Chinese weapons sales to Sudan, suggests that Chinese engineers supervise arms production at the Giad industrial complex outside Khartoum. Chinese military companies have also helped set up arms factories outside Khartoum at Kalakla, Chojeri and Bageer.

China Paper Decries Sudan’s Bashir Arrest Move

Not unexpectedly, a different view was expressed in People’s Daily, China’s top official newspaper, which amplified Beijing’s opposition to pursuing charges of genocide in Darfur.

Chinese officials have voiced concerns an indictment of Bashir could derail struggling peace efforts in Darfur, and Beijing also faces threats of protests over its ties with Sudan during the Olympic Games in August.

On Thursday, the People’s Daily, official newspaper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, added to criticism of the ICC.

“Don’t pour oil on fire,” said a commentary in the paper, adding that Darfur is “at a sensitive and crucial time.”

“Alleviating this problem demands all sides exercise prudence, consult on an equal basis and strive to cooperate, not rashly push for sanctions, indictments, verdicts and even issuing arrest warrants.”

China Boosts Peacekeepers in Darfur

The AFP reports one more reason for China’s concern over the ICC move:

A new company of Chinese engineers deployed to Sudan’s war-torn western region of Darfur on Thursday, boosting the number of UN-led peacekeeping troops to 8,000, a mission spokeswoman said.

“They’ve arrived; 172 arrived so that brings the number of the Chinese contingent to 315,” said Josephine Guerrero, spokeswoman for the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission UNAMID.

UNAMID is on high alert amid fears of a backlash after the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor on Monday sought an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

China-Africa Ties: Europe Should Not Panic

In a wide-ranging interview covering questions on human rights violations, arms deals with Zimbabwe and Kenya, low quality imports to Africa, and interactions with Presidents Mugabe and Bashir, the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, H.E. Zhang Ming, provided his answers to the African Executive.

Q.  How sure are we that China is not coming to re-colonise Africa?

We should look at things optimistically. India held the India – Africa Summit. Japan has arrived. Russia is planning to approach Africa. This should be good news to Africa. We won’t join military competition in Africa. China buys natural resources from Australia, and Canada among others but nobody raises eyebrows. Why are fingers pointed at us when we buy goods from Africa?

Over the past 50 years, China and Africa have exchanged sympathy, support and assistance to each other in national liberation; maintaining peace and promoting economical and social development. Now, especially after the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which was held in Beijing in November 2006, China and Africa have established and are constantly developing a new type of strategic partnership, featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchange.

Q. What message do you have for our European friends?

I’d like them to know that China- Africa cooperation is an important component of international cooperation for development. It is neither targeted at any third party nor threatens the interest of any country. China takes an open, constructive and inclusive attitude to work together with the international community, including America, EU, India and Japan, among others, towards the peace and development of Africa.

China and Africa: A Rewarding Relationship

An opinion piece in the Times argues why the West should not assume that China’s influence in Africa is malignant:

As the World Bank has noted, Africa presents huge investment opportunities for those willing to take risks to reap high returns. Africa has reversed six decades of decline in its share of global trade. Most countries there are growing at higher rates than the world economy.

China’s increasing influence in Africa is often discussed without regard to this new situation. Chinese investment is a consequence of Africa’s growth, not the cause. Countries that grow 5-6 per cent a year for a decade need new roads, power stations and manufactured goods.

Only countries ostracised by the West, such as the Sudan, have China as their main commercial partner. China’s presence there is a sign of its weakness, not its strength. China has been left with markets too small for Western investors. […]

But it is not Western governments that the Chinese appear to be upsetting. For years Western NGOs have sought to teach their domestic audiences that all that is required in Africa is small-scale, sustainable development. Oxfam encourages people to buy Africans a goat, some seed, condoms, a toilet, or even dung for Christmas. And all this comes with moral hectoring about Aids and the need for population control.

No wonder the Chinese, with their no strings attached investment policies are so welcomed across the continent. They get things done.

Anger at China’s Approval as Ivory Buyer

The AFP continues its coverage of the UN decision this week to allow China to import elephant ivory from Africa under strict conditions with a recent article focusing on criticisms by conservationists:

China’s approval for the first time as a bonafide buyer of ivory drew flak Wednesday from some conservationists who blame the country for stoking the illegal ivory trade.

One of the world’s biggest consumers of elephant ivory, China was given the go ahead on Tuesday to participate as a licensed buyer in an upcoming auction of 108 tonnes of ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“This sale has literally given the green light to the international poaching syndicates and organised crime and will present a nightmare to poorly resourced wildlife enforcement agencies in Africa,” said Animal Rights Africa.

“In real terms this represents the death of an estimated 7,699 South African elephants (1.8 tusks per elephant and 3.68kg per tusk),” said a statement from the organisation, which is based in South Africa.

For background on this story, please see previous CDT posts, China Gets Permission to Import Ivory From Africa and UN May Legalize Ivory Sales from Africa to China.

Chinese Trio Arrested with Elephant Tusks 

In related news, The Daily Nation reports that three Chinese nationals have been arrested in Nairobi while trying to smuggle out processed ivory.  

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) confirmed in a statement that its officers working with counterparts from the Kenya Airports Authority have arrested three Chinese nationals – two women and a man – with 2.2 kilograms of processed ivory at the airport.

The three were on their way to Harare, Zimbabwe when they were arrested and taken to the JKIA Police Station.  KWS spokesperson Kentice Tikolo said they failed to produce any valid CITES permits allowing them to travel with the carved trophies.

Senegal Says Mediterranean Union Will Split Africa

Reuters reports on the reactions in Africa regarding the launch of a Union for the Mediterranean. Mostly, there is fear that this may result in in a divided Sub-Saharan and Super-Saharan Africa. In many ways, China’s forays into Africa already reflect this devision. With the exception of Egypt, the vast majority of China’s activity is in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The newly launched Union for the Mediterranean will divide Africa north and south of the Sahara and create a two-speed cooperation with Europe in which black Africa will be relegated, Senegal’s president said on Wednesday.

In a statement issued in Dakar, President Abdoulaye Wade, an outspoken advocate of African unity, spelled out his objections to the 43-nation Mediterranean grouping inaugurated on Sunday by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.

The new union brings together countries from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and aims to forge practical cooperation on issues like water, energy and education.

Wade, who has in the past chided Europe for falling behind other more recent aggressive investors in Africa like China and India, said the European continent was seeking “new blood” by uniting with North Africa’s Maghreb.

“But of course there are other obvious goals behind the Union for the Mediterranean initiative like Algeria’s oil and gas and Libyan oil,” he said.

He said even in Libya, “there are Mediterraneanists not very inclined towards black Africa”.

Zimbabwe inflation at 2,200,000%

From the BBC:

Zimbabwe’s annual rate of inflation has surged to 2,200,000%, official figures have shown.

The figure is the first official assessment of prices in the troubled African nation since February, when the rate of inflation stood at 165,000%.

Zimbabwe, once one of the richest countries in Africa, has descended into economic chaos largely blamed on the policies of President Robert Mugabe.

The US and the EU have imposed targeted sanctions, such as a travel ban and an assets freeze, on Mr Mugabe and his close allies. 

For background on China and Russia’s veto of the UN attempt to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, please see a previous CDT post, China Vetos UN Sanctions on Zimbabwe.