China and Russia should pull out of UN Sudan debate, says church leader

By Ecumenical News International
March 6, 2009

A senior African church grouping official says China and Russia should pullout of the United Nations Security Council debate on the arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, saying the two world powers are suppliers of the very arms causing much of the violence in Sudan - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"They [China and Russia] should withdraw from the council debate, since they are supplying arms to Sudan," Arthur Shoo, the director of programmes at the All Africa Conference of Churches told Ecumenical News International in Nairobi on 5 March 2009. He was speaking after the Hague-based International Criminal Court issued a arrest warrant for al-Bashir for crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, in Sudan's west.

"They should not say no [to the ICC warrant], when they are the ones supplying the arms," Shoo of China and Russia.

The Eurasia Daily Monitor reported on 11 February, "The Sudanese military is embarking on a massive modernisation campaign and appears to have found a willing partner in Russia, which seeks to extend its influence in Africa … China has also become Russia's main competition in arms sales to Africa and is frequently able to supply Chinese-built Russian-designs for significantly less than Russia's arms industry."

In response to the ICC warrant, President al-Bashir announced on 5 March, "We have expelled 10 foreign organisations ... after monitoring activities that act in contradiction to all regulation and laws." Al-Bashir was speaking at a public rally in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

On the same day, China, which purchases much of Sudan's oil, and Russia opposed the ICC decision. China urged the U.N. Security Council to suspend the case against al-Bashir, who had been indicted for seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture.

Russia's Ambassador to Sudan also criticised the decision. "The untimely decision of the International Criminal Court creates a dangerous precedent in the system of international relations and could have a negative effect both on the situation inside Sudan and on the general regional situation," the envoy, Mikhail Margelov, was quoted as saying in The Sudan Tribune on 5 March.

In 2007, Shoo, a Tanzania, warned that China was selling arms to African countries that were being used to fuel regional violence. He also mentioned two countries in the former Soviet bloc, Ukraine and Bulgaria.

"If arms were food, Africa would not starve," said Shoo, adding that most the weapons manufactured in the countries he mentioned were sent to Africa. "The money could be used to buy food for Africa especially during this global financial crisis and the drought. Many people are dying of hunger."

Shoo urged Russia, China and other countries to halt the supply of arms and armaments and to look at the impact their exports have there.

Church-related organizations are part of the world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur, where the Janjaweed, a pro-government Arab militia has been accused of atrocities. The U.N. estimates that since 2003 nearly 300 000 people have died in Darfur, a region the size of France.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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