As Beijing has started the countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games,
an attempt is being made to link the Darfur issue with the
On March 28, US movie actress and United Nations friendship
ambassador Mia Farrow published a biased article in the Wall Street
Journal criticizing China and calling for a boycott of the Beijing
Not long after that, French presidential candidate Francois
Bayrou echoed Farrow's sentiment by suggesting that France should
consider boycotting the Beijing Games if China refuses to pressure
the Sudanese government into a speedy solution of the Darfur
crisis. By blaming the Darfur issue on China they have bared their
ignorance and arrogance toward China.
Darfur is situated in western Sudan with an area of about
500,000 square kilometers, which translates into one-fifth of
Sudan's territory. The current population of this region is
estimated at more than 3 million.
Like most other African nations, Sudan's national boundaries
were arbitrarily determined in the 19th century by European powers
carving up the continent for colonization. This not only resulted
in the complexity of Sudan's ethnic makeup but also divided some
tribes and separated them in different countries.
In February 2003, the Sudan Liberation Army (the People's
Liberation Movement), consisting mostly of land-tilling villagers,
the Justice and Equality Movement and several other armed groups,
launched a large-scale anti-government campaign demanding
The local Arabs and Muslims from neighboring countries formed a
loosely grouped militia force called the Janjaweed to fight the
A series of military confrontations took place as the two sides'
mutual hatred boiled over, causing deaths in the tens of thousands.
More than a million locals were rendered homeless.
The causes of the crisis include tribal conflict, religious
disputes, conflicts over scarce water and land, marginalization of
the region, the locals' terrible relations with the central
government and the war in southern Sudan.
There are about 80 tribes in the Darfur region, where armed
confrontations break out frequently over subsistence farmland,
pastures and water.
Adding to that is the presence of numerous anti-government armed
groups, which are constantly fighting one another to secure their
own interests. Thus, finding a way to end the conflict and bring
the tribes to peaceful coexistence has become a key task.
The Sudanese authorities have blamed the anti-government armed
groups for throwing the Darfur region into turmoil and refused to
grant their demand for autonomous rule. At the same time, the
government insists that the issue be a Sudan domestic affair and
objects to any attempt to internationalize it.
Unfortunately, despite mediation by the African Union,
negotiations between the government and the Sudan Liberation Army
and Justice and Equality Movement have suffered repeated
Western countries led by the United States are now pushing for a
UN resolution for sanctions against the Sudanese authorities for
what they call "genocide" in the region.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto
power, China is deeply concerned with the Darfur crisis and has
played a constructive role in resolving the problem from an early
date. Major measures China has taken so far include:
Narrowing differences and pushing for peaceful dialogue among
all sides by communicating with the factions through a number of
China has worked with the concerned parties to narrow their
differences and urged them to enter peaceful dialogue through such
channels as reciprocal visits by state leaders, exchange of special
envoys, telephone calls, exchange of letters and meetings at the
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a three-phase
plan for deploying a joint peace-keeping force by UN and AU member
nations in Darfur. Thanks to efforts by China the Sudanese
government finally accepted the proposal in principle and expressed
willingness to be more flexible on this issue.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said in a letter to UN
Secretary-General Ban Kye-Moon on March 8 that he supports the UN
plan to deploy joint UN-AU peacekeeping forces in the Darfur
On April 16, Sudan accepted the deployment of UN attack
helicopters and 3,000 peacekeepers in Darfur, the first time it
allowed a significant presence of UN forces to help African troops
struggling to bring peace to the region.
Part of earlier UN moves, on November 16, 2006, then UN
Secretary-General Annan announced that Sudan had agreed "in
principle" to accept the joint peacekeeping forces.
A small number of military advisors were dispatched to the
region by the UN soon afterwards as the start of the three-phase
deployment commenced, although the remaining two phases have yet to
commence. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently called on the
Sudanese authorities to facilitate the early deployment of the
UN-AU joint peacekeeping forces.
Presenting a constructive initiative. In January, President Hu
Jintao put forward the following principles for resolving the
Darfur crisis during his visit to Sudan:
a) Respect Sudan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
b) Stick to dialogue and consultation on an equal footing in a
bid to resolve disputes peacefully.
c) International bodies such as the AU and UN should play a
constructive role in the issue of peacekeeping in Darfur.
d) Push for regional stability and improve local living
The urgent task today is to realize a complete ceasefire in the
Darfur region, speed up the process of political negotiation and
bring into the peace process those factions that have yet to sign
the Darfur Peace Agreement. At the same time, make sure
humanitarian aid is properly delivered to improve local living
conditions to try to start gradual improvement of local
Send special envoys to Darfur. In January 2006, Vice-Foreign
Minister Lu Guozeng visited the Darfur region as a special enjoy of
the Chinese government. That trip was followed this month by the
four-day visit to Sudan by Special Envoy Zhai Jun, who held talks
with Sudanese President Al-Bashir.
He also toured the Darfur region, met with governors of the
Shamal Darfur (North Darfur) and Janub Darfur (South Darfur)
states, visited three refugee camps and talked to representatives
of local residents and refugees to gauge the humanitarian and
China places great importance on the humanitarian and security
situations in Darfur and has donated more than $10 million in
humanitarian aid as well as cash to the AU Special Delegation to
the region. It has also sent peacekeeping troops to Sudan as part
of AU-UN joint peacekeeping forces.
Cooperation between China and Sudan in energy resource
development has played a positive role in helping the local economy
and improving living conditions in Sudan.
Job opportunities increased dramatically as a result of the
bilateral cooperation. The joint venture has provided jobs to more
than 100,000 people, while employing even more indirectly as the
oil industry has grown.
China, while helping Sudan develop its energy and mineral
resources, also provides training for local management personnel,
engineers and workers to lay down the human foundation for the
sustainable development of Sudan's energy and mineral
Chinese construction companies have built roads, hospitals and
water supply facilities, which markedly contribute to the
improvement of local people's standard of living.
Clearly China has maintained a responsible stand in the Darfur
issue and played a constructive role in the region. Because of the
complicated nature of the causes of the Darfur crisis, the key to
resolving the problem lies in the early realization of lasting
peace, economic recovery and alleviation of the humanitarian crisis
To accomplish this goal it is imperative first for the Sudanese
government to cooperate in all related efforts; second, for the AU
to continue to play a leading role; and third, for the
international community to continue providing aid to the best of
Sudan is one of the least developed nations in the world. It
will only add to the Sudanese people's sufferings and perhaps
further complicate the situation to slap sanctions against the
Western African country.
"One world, one dream." The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is not a
spectacular gathering for just the Chinese but for people all over
the world. It not only does disservice to the resolution of the
Darfur issue but also constitutes an insult to the Olympic spirit
to wantonly blame China for the Darfur crisis and blackmail China
by threatening to boycott the Beijing Games next year.
The author is a researcher with the China Institute of
(China Daily April 24, 2007)