China to send 700 combat troops to South Sudan
China is to send 700 combat troops to South Sudan in what analysts describe as a significant shift from its stated policy of non-interference in African conflicts.
The first Chinese infantry battalion to take part in a UN peacekeeping mission will be equipped with drones, armoured carriers, antitank missiles, mortars and other weapons, “completely for self-defence purpose”, state media reported.
China is Africa’s biggest trade partner but has taken an arm’s length approach to the continent’s myriad of political and military disputes. But it has been unusually proactive in diplomatic efforts to pacify South Sudan, where it has invested heavily but where civil war has slashed oil production by a third.
Richard Poplak, an author and journalist studying Beijing’s influence on the continent, said: “This does seem to announce a new era in the way China is engaging with Africa. It runs contrary to China’s foreign policy of, ‘We don’t interfere’. It’s an enormous renunciation of that.”
Poplak, who has visited 18 African countries including South Sudan for a forthcoming book, added: “It comes down to interest. The Chinese have poured billions and billions into South Sudan, so many resources that it’s almost baffling. This is a shift in realpolitik: you can’t just talk all the time and not carry a big stick. The Chinese have realised that.”
China is the biggest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN security council and currently has more than 2,000 posted around the world. But nearly all are engineers, medical and transport workers and security guards.
South Sudan marks first anniversary of civil war
Acwil Nyago Arop, five, from Owaci; Benjamin Dhieu, 42, from Juba; Nyajang Nyidhok Odok, 105, from Malakal – these are among the first names released from a list of the dead to mark the first anniversary of the civil war in South Sudan.
There is no official death toll in the world’s youngest country where tens of thousands of people are believed to have perished in the past year. A group of civil society volunteers has spent months collecting and verifying names of the victims to give the tragedy a human face. They have gathered 572 so far, ranging from a 14-month-old toddler to a 105-year-old grandmother.
Anyieth D’Awol, organiser of the Naming Those We Lost project, told Agence France-Presse: “This list, although a fraction of the total loss, reflects the devastating human impact of South Sudan’s year-long war in which no one has been officially counting the dead. Peace remains elusive, mass graves dot the landscape with civilians, both young and old, bearing the brunt of the fighting.”
The majority named were civilians and most of those, young people. “As time continues to pass, the list of names will inevitably grow into a true reflection of the colossal loss of life that the people of South Sudan have once again suffered,” D’Awol added.
Estimates of numbers killed in are notoriously vague. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said on Monday that “tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed”. The International Crisis Group estimates that at least 50,000 people have died, but some analysts believe it could be twice that figure.
Upper Nile Region to Deploy More Troops for Election Security
Faced with an increasingly growing and expanding violent rebellion, governors from the three states in the Upper Nile region have asked president Salva Kiir to allow them arm with air force capability and deploy extra troops to in the region, if the presidential and legislative elections are to be held this year.
The Ugandan army’s deployment in South Sudan has caused friction, with opposition forces calling for their withdrawal
Upper Nile state governor, Simon Kun Puoc said the move follows recommendations made at last year’s governors’ forum held in the capital, Juba.
The forum reportedly called for deployment of more security forces from states not affected by conflict and that issues of security be treated as key during election period.
“People are concerned that these elections may be disrupted by the rebels and that people would be afraid to go to the voting even centers. This would require deployment of more troops. The troops we have on the ground in our various states are not enough,” Puoc said Wednesday.
Warring Parties Threaten to Resume Hostilities
South Sudanese rival parties on Tuesday traded threats to wage an all-out war on each other despite mounting pressure from international community and the regional leaders to impose sanctions, should they fail to reach a negotiated settlement.
South Sudanese information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters on Tuesday that his government would pursue the rebels to the last destination if they continue attacks on positions held by its troops.
“The rebels of Riek have refused to listen to what the international community and the region are saying that peaceful settlement is the only way to resolve this conflict, which is the path the government is following and accepted to negotiate with them without conditions,” Lueth said.