China to donate $23 mln for east Sudan development
BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government will donate 154 million yuan for aid projects in the strategic and once restive eastern part of Sudan, China's special representative to Darfur was quoted as saying on Thursday.
The east is crucial to Sudan's oil-driven economy as it contains the only commercial port and miles of pipeline.
The Beja Congress, an east Sudanese party, signed a peace deal with Khartoum in 2006, ending a lingering insurgency in the region, and its leader became a presidential assistant. But it has complained that the government has continued to neglect the region since the accord.
Liu Guijin, Beijing's top diplomat in charge of tackling the conflict in Sudan's restive Darfur region, said development in eastern Sudan was crucial to stability.
"The situation there is generally stable and there has been some economic progress," China's Foreign Ministry paraphrased Liu as saying at a donor's conference in Kuwait.
"But this region's advantages in natural resources have yet to be truely transformed into a development advantage," he added.
China had already made "many contributions" to developing eastern Sudan, and would now donate a further 154 million yuan to build water supplies, bridges and other infrastructure, Liu said.
"China is willing to continue playing a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in Sudan," he added.
Chinese companies are major investors in Sudan's oil, and China is Khartoum's top arms supplier, something long criticised by human rights activists and Western governments, especially because of the conflict in Darfur.
But China, sensitive to criticism about its role in Sudan, has sent peacekeepers to Darfur and appointed its own special representative to the region to try and bring peace there.
The conflict in Darfur flared in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglecting the region. A series of cease-fires, negotiations and international campaigns has failed to end the fighting and law and order has collapsed in most of the region.
The United Nations estimates up to 300,000 people died in the humanitarian crisis after Khartoum mobilised militias to quell the revolt. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.