Home / China / View

Chance for peace in South Sudan

By He Wenping | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-09 07:20

As peace talks between South Sudan's government and rebels started in Ethiopia on Monday, China has urged South Sudan's warring sides to seek a reasonable and rational solution to their conflict and to restore the rule of law and order.

China is gravely concerned about the recent clashes in South Sudan, and hopes that both sides, in accordance with the comprehensive and long-term interest of the South Sudanese people, can agree to end the violence, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi after meeting separately with representatives of South Sudan's warring sides in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

China is the largest investor in South Sudan, where it has great petroleum interests. South Sudan is estimated to have sub-Saharan Africa's third-biggest oil reserves, up to 3.5 billion barrels, and its highest daily output has been 250,000 barrels. In 2012 China imported 70 percent of South Sudan's crude oil, and Chinese petroleum enterprises have a 40 percent share in South Sudan's petroleum pipeline. Like the situation during Libya's civil war two years ago, Chinese people's personal and property safety in South Sudan have been threatened, and more than 300 Chinese people have been evacuated from South Sudan to neighboring countries. Because of this, some foreign media have claimed that China is the biggest victim of the conflict and now in a predicament.

However, it should be pointed out that, first and foremost, it is the South Sudanese people and the young country's development process that are suffering the most from the conflict. More than three weeks of chaos caused by the war have disrupted national reconstruction and caused a huge humanitarian disaster.

The peace talks are the first face-to-face negotiations between the South Sudan government forces led by President Salva Kiir and rebel forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar. The conflict was initially a power struggle between two factions within the ruling party, but it soon escalated into ethnic group killing because ethnic identity outweighs national identity in South Sudan. The ethnic violence between the majority Dinka group, which Kiir is from, and the second largest group, the Nuer, which Machar is from, is destroying the foundations of national identity and the war is bringing the country to the brink of being a failed state.

The war also threatens regional peace and stability. Compared with other parts of Africa, the Horn of Africa and North Africa have suffered a lot from the terrorist activities of extremist organizations and rebel forces. In recent years, the activities of Somalia's al-Shabab terrorist group have crossed the border of Somalia into Uganda and Kenya. Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have suffered for years from rebel forces such as the Lord's Resistance Army and the M23 rebel group. The Central African Republic has fallen into civil strife since the second half of 2013.

If South Sudan falls into a full-scale civil war, it will spillover into neighboring countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The conflict and ethnic violence in the world's newest country is also a slap in the face for the United States, which claimed South Sudan's referendum on independence in February 2011 was a success for its new Sudan strategy. The goal of the new strategy was not only South Sudan's independence, which the US hoped would give it access to its oil, but also to prevent the Islamic regime in Sudan from further expanding its influence in sub-Saharan Africa.

As the biggest investor in South Sudan's petroleum, the Chinese government has a stake in peace and stability in the country, and it has called on both sides to exercise restraint and solve their dispute through dialogue and negotiation. It is also actively supporting the mediation efforts of the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development. China is willing to play a constructive role in promoting the peace talks between the warring parties in South Sudan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Addis Ababa on Monday at the start of a six-day visit to Africa.

Although the two sides still have differences in opinion, they have managed to narrow down those differences and increase consensus, which lays a foundation for the peace talks, Wang said.

This is a good beginning for achieving a political solution, as it hoped that consensus can be reached on stopping hostilities, releasing political prisoners, holding political dialogues and providing access for humanitarian aid. This will lay the foundations for further negotiations on possible power sharing.

Restoring peace and stability in South Sudan is the common desire of the international community and China is shouldering its responsibilities in trying to facilitate this.

The author is a senior fellow with the Chahar Institute and a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349