Published in The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2007
By MIA FARROW
As Khartoum's largest and closest business partner, China has provoked outrage from the international community for underwriting genocide in Darfur. In recent months, Beijing has responded with steadily increasing talk about its commitment to promoting peace in the region. But it has taken no meaningful action.
Beijing apparently has two strategies. The first is to preserve its alliance with Sudan in order to meet its massive oil needs. The second is to fashion its brand new image -- one that befits the host of the 2008 Olympic games. The two are inconsistent.
Genocide Sudanese style is expensive. It requires the purchase of bombers, attack helicopters and a steady flow of arms and ammunition for their proxy killers, the Janjaweed militia. It is no longer a secret that some 70% of Sudan's Chinese oil revenues, which now top $1 billion per year, have been used by the Khartoum government to attack the non-Arab population in the remote Darfur region.
Under intense international pressure, China for the first time did not abstain from signing on to the newest United Nations Resolution to provide a protection force for Darfur. But scrutiny of the various incarnations of U.N. Resolution 1769 reveals that China signed only after removing some of its sharpest teeth: The resolution has no mandate to disarm the Janjaweed, and no provision to protect Darfur's borders in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic. The Darfur spillover is threatening to topple both impoverished and unstable countries. Although China has made numerous glib statements in support of the proposed peacekeeping force, the force's command, capabilities and composition effectively remain in the hands of the Sudanese regime.
China, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, has rejected imposing any form of sanctions on its Sudanese partners, thereby allowing Khartoum to continue its campaign of destruction with impunity. Furthermore, Beijing has refused to commit to an arms embargo even in the face of documented and increasingly publicized evidence that Chinese arms shipments to Sudan are destined for Darfur.
Despite claims by both the Chinese and the government of Sudan that the situation in Darfur has improved, the U.N. and humanitarian organizations on the ground present a very different picture: Security is rapidly declining, and the threat of humanitarian organizations withdrawing grows by the day.
On Sept. 24, Oxfam announced that it is on the threshold of pulling out personnel due to worsening security. This week, escalating violence in the region caused World Vision, a New York-based aid group, to cut its team by two-thirds. World Vision had been feeding 500,000 people.
Many camps are so unsafe that humanitarian work is grinding to a halt. Attacks on aid workers rose 150% in the last year. An unprecedented one million vulnerable civilians are currently outside of humanitarian reach. UNICEF reports that in several camps 30% of the population is suffering from acute malnutrition.
Meanwhile, aerial attacks on civilians continue, according to an Amnesty International report of Aug. 24, 2007. Just this week in north Darfur, a breakaway faction of the rebel groups JEM and SLA Unity attacked the African Union base in Haskanita, killing at least 10 peacekeepers. Dozens are reported missing. The attack was strongly condemned by Suleiman Jamous, the most respected elder statesman among the rebels in Darfur.
"As rebels, we are losing the sympathy of the international community because of lack of control and divisions within the movements," said Mr. Jamous, a leading figure in the original Darfur rebel movement, the Sudan Liberation Army. "People are frustrated that the African Union is not able to protect them."
This latest horror underscores the urgent need for a rapid deployment of well-trained, well-supplied troops and fully qualified civilian police. Ironically, however, it is likely to make it more difficult for the U.N. to assemble the necessary peacekeepers.
What better time for China to step up and change its image? In the face of mounting criticism of its support of brutal repression and cultural destruction in Burma and Tibet, Darfur represents an opportunity for Beijing to create a positive impression -- and desperately needed favorable PR in anticipation of the 2008 Olympic games.
The Chinese have hired more than one prestigious international public-relations firm to clean up their image. But the words they are churning out about Darfur are, at this point, simply that. The undeniable fact remains that China continues to underwrite genocide and the immeasurable suffering of millions of human beings in the Darfur region of Sudan.
If Beijing elected to act rather than talk, there is plenty it could do. It could refuse to sell weapons to Sudan. It could insist that the Janjaweed be disarmed. It could demand that the regime stop bombing civilians. It could suspend new oil deals with Khartoum until there is security in Darfur. Even the threat of such actions would have an immediate effect.
The world should urge China to apply its unique and powerful leverage to bring an end to this continuing nightmare in Darfur and make its Olympic slogan -- "One world, one dream" -- a reality.
Ms. Farrow, an actress, has just returned from her seventh trip into the Darfur region.