Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's missing in Obama's Agenda with the Chinese? Darfur

President Obama is spending some time with Chinese President Hu and other leaders of the Chinese Government. They certainly have much to discuss. According to a statement from the White House the agenda includes "a range of global challenges, covering economic recovery, nonproliferation issues, [and] increasing cooperation on energy issues. And the President looks forward to building on the strong, positive, and comprehensive relationship that has been forged."

Economic recovery is critically important. So are non-proliferation and energy issues. But one major global issue is conspicuously missing from this statement: The sale of Chinese Arms to the Sudanese government - arms which are supporting the genocide in Darfur.

In the United States, news of the economic crisis and the health care reform proposals in congress have dominated the airwaves, forcing issues like genocide off of the front pages, and out of the minds of most people. But that doesn't mean the killing has stopped. In March, 13 foreign aid groups were expelled from the country, ten of which were doing protection and anti-sexual violence work. A UN report released last month shows sexual violence is 'rampant' in Darfur. From the Washington Post:

"The Darfurian population continues to be victimized by the effects of attacks and counterattacks involving most of the armed movements that frequently lead to disproportionate use of force by the Sudanese Armed Forces," the report said. The panel described a government crackdown on Darfur natives that "has manifested itself in violations of a catalogue of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Human Rights First has done extensive work on the crisis in Darfur, and pressuring China to respect the UN Security council Arms embargo should be among the Obama Administration's top priorities next week. This is obviously a politically sensitive issue as China is getting much needed oil from Sudan, and is largely unwilling to do without it. Could it be that in addition to global climate change, President Obama will raise the issue of Drafur as part of 'increasing cooperation on energy issues'? Maybe. But if you want him to, say so.

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