10/20/2008, 00.00
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Sudan: anti-government rebels abduct nine Chinese oil workers

Rebels want a share of the oil wealth. China is Sudan’s main trading partner and ally. Khartoum is accused of the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Beijing’s expansion into Africa is seen as “colonial”.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Nine Chinese oil workers and their two Sudanese drivers were kidnapped on Saturday evening in Kordofan, southern Sudan. The unidentified kidnappers later released one of the local drivers with a note saying they wanted a share in the region's oil wealth.

Ali Yousuf, director of protocol at the Sudanese foreign ministry, said that Sudanese forces were searching the area, but no contact had been made with the kidnappers so far.

The men were taken from an oil field, near the district of Abyei, owned by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, a consortium of four oil companies, headed by China National Petroleum Corporation with partners from India, Malaysia and Sudan. It produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude per day

The area is close to oil-rich Darfur where the Sudanese has been conducting a virtual genocide vis-à-vis the local population.

According to United Nations sources, since 2003 this conflict has killed 300,000 people and displaced another.

For this reason the international community has imposed a trade embargo against Sudan, except for China and Russia, both of which have accused of selling weapons the African country has been using in Darfur.

As Sudan’s top trading partner China has argued that trade is to the advantage of the civilian population.

Rebels have accused Beijing of helping Khartoum and have attack Chinese oil installations in Kordofan several times. Two weeks ago a Chinese camp was raided and ransacked with everything taken, “including the beds and bedsheets”.

In May four Indian were abducted and eventually released.

For Walid Khadduri, an Arab oil analyst, kidnappings have made Sudan’s oil industry one of the most dangerous in the world, but not frightened away foreign oil companies.

“Look at Nigeria, oil workers have been kidnapped and killed . . . but the investment has not stopped," he said.

For years China has been active in Africa buying energy and raw materials (metals, minerals, wood and even ivory), trading with corrupt governments like that of Zimbabwe.

For Beijing its approach is a ‘win-win’ situation, a 50-50 partnership, without any colonialist connotations. However, unlike Western governments it does not demand to see that the money goes to benefit the population rather than elites.

Very often it pays for raw materials with infrastructural projects (roads, bridges and buildings) using Chinese companies with Chinese workers, and even Made-in-China goods, using only cheap local labour.

China-Africa trade reached US$ 73.3 billion last in 2007, up 32.2 percent over the previous year.

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See also
Chinese officials in Sudan, to negotiate release of workers held by rebels
China asks UN to suspend arrest warrant against Omar al-Bashir
Beijing gets directly involved in negotiations for the release of kidnapped Chinese workers
Three billion dollars a year from China for the genocide in Darfur
China hails agreement between Sudan and Darfur rebel group


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