•China continues to adhere to its stated principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. China also opposes regime change or unilateral military intervention.
•China does not harbor any hegemonic designs in its bilateral or multilateral relations.
It is now three weeks since Sudan suddenly erupted in bomb blasts and gunfire. Indeed, few people outside the protagonists would have seen the fighting now ravaging the country pitting the Sudanese Armed Forces loyal to army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on one hand, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a rebel group under Sudan's deputy leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo aka Hemedti.
According to the World Health Organization reports on April 23, more than 427 people have been killed and over 3,700 injured. The situation is getting dire each day, with humanitarian organizations like the United Nations warning that the country is facing a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions as food and medical supplies cannot be given to those who urgently need them.
A hasty and shaky ceasefire agreed on April 18 between the warring parties did not obviously hold. This showed the level of pent up tension and impatience between the warring parties. It also showed absolute lack of trust between them, which is what has escalated the crisis to boil over in the first place.
But Sudan has not known peace for decades. Experts see the current crisis as a legacy of the pre-independence conflict between the Muslim north and Christian south, and the Darfur conflict that started in 2003 caused by insurrection against the then Sudanese government.
The West, led by the United States, seem stranded in the current crisis, having been embroiled for long in the Sudan conflict. The much the US could do yet is brokering a 72-hour ceasefire to create a window for evacuations and passage of humanitarian aid. Apparently, talk of lasting peace is still not on the cards right now. The best US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken could promise is a non-committal working with local and international actors "to support a durable end to the fighting."
Previous US meddling through direct intervention during the civil war and in the fight against terrorism has disqualified it as an honest arbiter of the Sudan conflict. In 1993, the US designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. Three years later, the superpower suspended US Embassy operations in the country. There is really no love lost between the two countries.
Well, China’s emerging and prominent role as a global peacemaker cannot be gainsaid. The country’s facilitation in the rapprochement between perennial foes Saudi Arabia and Iran on March 10 will endure as a best practice in peace negotiations. China also released several proposals for the political settlement of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, receiving international acclaim for its bipartisan approach. On Monday, China’s foreign minister Qin Gang told his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts that his country was ready to facilitate peace talks between the two Middle East foes.
China, using its influence with the Sudanese government and the UN Security Council, helped secure the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur in 2008. When civil war broke out in South Sudan in late 2013, Chinese advocates of a looser interpretation of non-intervention saw an opportunity to try new approaches.
China has been involved in the UN African Union Mission in Darfur since 2007, being one of the first countries to contribute peacekeepers to the mission. Over the past years, an estimated 5,000 Chinese peacekeepers have actively performed their duties. Two of them died for peace and stability in Darfur.
China continues to adhere to its stated principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. China also opposes regime change or unilateral military intervention. It believes that showing respect rather than pressuring or imposing punishment is the path to cooperation and better governance.
Other relevant proposals from China’s peace roadmap that can work in Sudan include ceasing hostilities, resuming peace talks, resolving humanitarian crisis, protecting civilians, and promoting post conflict reconstruction. There is no mention of power either as a means or an end. Rather, peace initiatives should be based on a deep sense of empathy and humanity.
It is easy to see why China is rising as a credible peace negotiator amid the global melee. The country does not harbor any hegemonic designs in its bilateral or multilateral relations. Instead, the second largest global economy has used trade diplomacy to bear in many hotspots, preferring countries to compare the peace dividends versus the cost of violence.
Indeed, China has declared on many occasions that it has taken the path of peaceful development, is committed to safeguarding world peace and promoting the common development and prosperity of all countries. One year ago, it further buttressed its non-partisan peace advocacy through President Xi Jinping’s Global Security Initiative (GSI). The current Sudan crisis has the potential to degenerate into a genocide or escalate into a regional conflict.
China has pledged to follow an authentic approach in solving hot spot conflicts through dialogue. Driven by its emphasis on solving symptoms and causes of conflict, inviting stakeholders to meet midway, and striving for fairness and justice, the country is making sustained efforts to solve global crises as diplomatically as possible.
Stephen Ndegwa is the executive director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank.