Following a suggestion by Abu Faris in my blog-post about the war-crimes trials of Charles Taylor and Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, I looked into the use of Chinese weaponry in conflicts in Chad and Sudan.
It is two years now that South African dockers refused to unload an earlier shipment from the An Hue Jiang, bound for Zimbabwe in its pre MDC friendly days: to which Seamas Milne reacted with outraged indignation, being on the verge of flying-off to Durban to unload the whole damn shipment himself.
Without the threat of entirely-accidental NATO bombings of her Embassies, China has found many more than willing State allies throughout Africa. Whilst aspic-preserved anti-Imperialists would see this as throwing-off the shackles of European colonialism, non-political psychopaths would see it as thugs-in-government taking advantage of a no-questions-asked policy which aims simply to acquire influence in resource rich regions.
Even the People’s Republic of China has some shame, as can be seen in her current attempts to block a UN report which links Chinese weaponry to rape/murder packs of the Janjaweed (loosely translated as Horsemen of the Apocalypse). This relates, in part, to an attack on a UNAMID convoy near El-Fasher, North Darfur in July 2008 which left seven peacekeepers dead: although Khartoum attributed this to the Sudan Liberation Army, surviving peacekeepers reported seeing advanced weaponry being used by men in clothing similar to Sudanese uniforms.
Although there is no suggestion that China is in support of the Janjaweed (and that only her imported weaponry is ending up in their hands), this would demonstrate official support from Khartoum for the group. I await a Russell Tribunal on Sudan, with or without a declarative statement that Khartoum’s support for the Janjaweed is proven beyond doubt.
This already has spilled over into adjacent Central African Republic and Chad and Central African Republic. Former Presidents of both these countries are sought by the International Criminal Court. Respectively, the charges against Ange-Félix Patassé relate directly to those which Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is not under trial for; Hissène Habré was indicted for his actions in the1980s, first under Belgian’s universal jurisdiction legislation (until this was repealed following persistent misuse against anything and everything Israeli) and then by the ICC.
Their successors as and, in both cases, current Presidents of their respective countries should not be mistaken for breaths of fresh air in a blighted region. François Bozizé has, at least, admitted to the abuses of his country’s military during the CAR Bush War, and insisted that measures are being taken against them.
Chadian forces have also been involved in looting of CAR towns and villages, as well as attacks in their own eastern region which has been scene of Janjaweed attacks from Darfur. Since he toppled Habre in 1990, Idriss Déby has ensured that Chad is ranked by Transparency International as being in the bottom ten of corrupt nations, with blatant favouritism for members of his Bidayat clan as well as diverting tens of millions from World Bank funds for social projects to buy arms to fight the many rebel groups operating in Chad (whilst appealing to populist schtick about multinational oil companies with-holding taxes).
As with Charles Taylor, Déby had given positions of power to his son who went on to torture and abuse. Although, unlike Charles McArthur Emmanuel who now is serving 97 years in a US gaol, Brahim Déby made one enemy too many and was murdered in a Parisian garage.
Chad is another major recipient of Chinese weaponry. With past history of diplomatic and armed battles with Sudan, over both these countries’ support for rebels fighting the other, it is perfectly reasonable to imagine yet more Chinese guns finding their way into the hands of rebels. Without China’s permission, of course.