U.N. report: Chinese bullets used to attack peacekeepers in Darfur
China has mounted a strenuous diplomatic campaign to block the publication of a U.N. report claiming that Chinese ammunition was shipped into Darfur, Sudan, during the past year, in clear violation of U.N. sanctions, four U.N. diplomatic sources familiar with China’s effort told Turtle Bay. The findings by a U.N. Security Council-mandated “panel of experts” ...
China has mounted a strenuous diplomatic campaign to block the publication of a U.N. report claiming that Chinese ammunition was shipped into Darfur, Sudan, during the past year, in clear violation of U.N. sanctions, four U.N. diplomatic sources familiar with China’s effort told Turtle Bay. The findings by a U.N. Security Council-mandated “panel of experts” provide some of the strongest evidence to date that the Sudanese government in Khartoum imported arms and ammunition in violation of an arms embargo, routinely channeling them into Darfur, where it is engaged in a military campaign against local rebel groups.
The expert panel, which monitors a 6-year-old U.N. arms embargo in Sudan, presented its report in a closed-door briefing to the U.N. Security Council on October 4. The panel claimed that Sudanese forces had used more than a dozen types of Chinese ammunition in battles with Darfurian rebels in north and west Darfur over the past two years.
The report does not claim that Chinese arms dealers were aware that their munitions would make their way to Darfur. However, shell casings from Chinese ammunition were found at the sites of numerous attacks against U.N.-African Union peacekeeping forces, carried out by unidentified assailants. The casings show that the ammunition was manufactured after 2009, half a decade after the sanctions went into force. In all, the panel uncovered a total 18 varieties of shell casings, including 12 from China, four from Sudan, and two from Israel.
China responded angrily to the revelations and insisted that if the findings were not rewritten, it would block the report’s release to the public, according to diplomats. “These were very concrete allegations against the Chinese,” said a U.N.-based source familiar with the internal dispute over China’s arms. “The Chinese don’t want the report to be published.”
Under the terms of the U.N. arms embargo, Khartoum is allowed to purchase weapons abroad as long as they are not used in its military operations in Darfur. The report found that Khartoum had routinely skirted the law. In addition to the Chinese munitions, the Sudanese government used recently purchased Russian helicopters, Sukhoi 25 fighter planes from Belarus, and at least one Russian Mig-20 fighter jet in Darfur.
During the Oct. 4 meeting, China’s U.N. delegation threatened to veto the adoption of a resolution extending the panel’s mandate for another year — a move that would have essentially killed it off. But the country’s delegation relented following discussions with the United States and Britain and instead abstained on the resolution. In remarks following the vote, China made its displeasure with the panel’s work clear.
“China has serious concerns over the annual report submitted by the panel of experts on the Sudan sanctions committee and believes that there is much room for improvement in the work of the panel,” a Chinese diplomat, Yang Tao, told the council Thursday. “We urge the panel of experts to conduct its work under the principles of objectivity and responsibility.” A spokesman for the Chinese mission to the United Nations, Liu Yutong, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Security Council imposed sanctions on Sudan in 2004 and again in 2005. They include an arms embargo for Darfur and targeted financial and travel bans on Sudanese nationals accused of violating U.N. demands.
This is not the first time that the panel has alleged that large amounts of foreign ammunition and weapons have been trafficked into Darfur. In recent years, the panel has repeatedly raised concerns about illegal imports, principally from China and Chad. Such munitions have helped fuel a conflicts that has left more than 300,000 dead and driven more than 2.7 million from their homes.
In recent months, a peace accord between Sudan and Chad has lessened smuggling over the border, but the panel maintains that arms do continue to trickle into Sudan. Two samples of ammunition used by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) — one of the largest Darfur rebel groups — for example, were manufactured in Israel. The panel said that Israel confirmed that the ammunition was sold to the government of Chad. And Chad — which also signed an end-user agreement with Israel not to ship the arms to a third country — has long been accused of smuggling weapons to JEM as a proxy counterweight to the government in Khartoum.
For years, the expert panel has pressed the council to strengthen its capacity to enforce the sanctions, which have been routinely violated by Sudan and rebel groups. But efforts to reform the panel, or to target more Sudanese officials with sanctions have been blocked, primarily by China. Last year, the former head of the panel, Enrico Carisch, testified before the U.S. Congress that the Security Council had failed to act on more than 100 panel recommendations aimed at strengthening the sanctions. He also faulted the Barack Obama administration as well as the governments of France and Britain for doing little to force a more public debate.
The panel’s most recent report shows how difficult it is to enforce the sanctions. For instance, Russia has sold some 36 Mi-24 and Mi-17 helicopters to Khartoum since 2009, while Belarus sold 15 Sukhoi 25 jets to the Sudanese government since 2008, according to the panel. Sudan signed end-user agreements with both governments guaranteeing that the aircraft would not be used in Dafur. But the panel alleged that several of the aircraft had been used in military operations in Darfur. In fact, Sudan acknowledged to the panel that it had transferred some of the aircraft into Darfur, but claimed that they had not been used in military operations and therefore did not violate sanctions.
While Russian diplomats have responded diplomatically to the allegations, China has sought to flex its muscles. “They demanded a complete rewrite of the report,” said one official familiar with the deliberations. “But they have no factual basis to object.”
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
More from Foreign Policy
No, the World Is Not Multipolar
The idea of emerging power centers is popular but wrong—and could lead to serious policy mistakes.
America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want
Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.
America Can’t Stop China’s Rise
And it should stop trying.
The Morality of Ukraine’s War Is Very Murky
The ethical calculations are less clear than you might think.