Sudan: Rebels Play the China Cards

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December 16, 2007: UNAMID (the Darfur peacekeeping force) still needs helicopters, and the UN is openly criticizing the Europeans for not providing the needed aircraft. The UNAMID "package" needs 18 transport helicopters and six observation/utility helicopters. That is really a "base force" – in other words, a minimum, given the size of the Darfur region. Doubling the number of transport helicopter and tripling the number of observation helicopters is more realistic. Quality maintenance, however, is really more important that numbers. If you have 36 helicopters and a 50 percent readiness rate, you have 18 choppers available for operations. If you have 20 helicopters and a 90 percent readiness rate, you have 18 choppers available. The UN is trying to embarrass the Europeans into backing up their words (about ending the violence in Darfur) with deeds (providing suitably equipped troops). So far, the Europeans are talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

December 15, 2007: China appears to be increasingly anxious about the security of Chinese nationals in Sudan. The attack on a Chinese oil exploration facility in Ethiopia's Ogaden last spring made it obvious that Chinese nationals are an attractive target for insurgents and terrorists. The Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) claimed it struck a "Chinese" oil facility in South Kodorfan State. The government denied the attack. However, the political message the JEM sent was heard and received. China is one of the Sudan government's most reliable supporters and has a veto in the UN Security Council. Even Hollywood stars have put political pressure on the Chinese about Chinese support for Sudan. Now it appears that Sudanese rebels are signaling that they may treat China as a Sudan government ally.

December 12, 2007: The government (Khartoum) and South Sudan (Juba) both said they intend to pursue negotiations over the oil field in the Abyei region. Both sides indicate they do not want a resumption of the "north-south" civil war. One option is "dual control." Diplomats have suggested "an East Timor-like" deal where both the north and south share in Abyei's oil revenues.

South Sudan has played both China cards. This past summer South Sudanese diplomats visited China. The South Sudan approach to China is designed to tell the Chinese that if South Sudan controlled of the oil field China would still have access to the region.

South Sudan has also used "the tribal card. South Sudan recently described Abyei as , "…the ancestral home of the Dinka King." The SPLA is viewed by many as a "Dinka liberation army," since the Dinka tribe supplied most of the organization's leaders and fighters.

 

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