6-3-2011By Josh Hafenbrack
Douglas H. Johnson’s New York Times op-ed this week highlighted the central role China plays in preventing the North-South conflict in Sudan from escalating into civil war. Asserting the U.S. government has little influence with the Sudanese government, Johnson argued the “key player will be China” in preventing a bloody coda to South Sudan’s bid for independence.
Following a secession vote by the South Sudanese in January, the country is expected to be officially divided July 9. Current tensions between the North and South are focused on Abyei, a strategically important border region currently occupied by Northern forces.
China, Johnson wrote in the Times, must use its leverage to prevent violence in Sudan. China has called for restraint from the North and South and urged both sides to “adhere to peace,” but Johnson argued officials in Beijing and Washington should also pressure North Sudan to withdraw military forces from Abyei and restore civilian government in the region.
Similar to Human Rights First, Johnson’s op-ed highlights the policy importance for the U.S. government of focusing on third-party institutions and groups in stemming violence in Sudan.
As HRF has noted, China has long provided military, financial, and diplomatic support to the Sudanese government, helping fuel violence against civilians for decades. In a Huffington Post article, HRF called on the U.S. government to focus on China’s enabling role in Sudanese conflict in addition to pressuring political leadership inside the country. Targeting China – and other third-party enablers with ties to Sudan – will help cut off the supply of goods and services to military forces, which could prevent mass violence against civilians.