Konye Obaji Ori*
The conflict in South Sudan, between rival factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar has proven difficult to resolve, and continues to threaten the nation’s oil industry.
Chinese state firm, China National Petroleum Corp has a 40 percent stake in a joint venture developing South Sudan’s oil fields, with the Far East country considering the ongoing fighting as a direct threat to its investments.
An airlift of a Chinese infantry battalion to the South Sudanese states of Unity and Upper Nile began on Tuesday. The battalions will make part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
Under its mandate, UN peacekeepers are allowed to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians at oil installations.
If attacked, the Chinese soldiers are “combat ready and can fight back”.
China has also played an unusually active diplomatic role in South Sudan.
Last month, Beijing pressed South Sudan over renewed violence in the country, demanding an immediate ceasefire and political dialogue.
Chinese officials have worked with Western diplomats to help African mediators push for a halt to the fighting.
China’s role in Africa is increasingly economic and consequently political and militaristic.
Last year China sent a smaller “protection unit” to join a UN mission in Mali, but this is the first time China had contributed a battalion to a UN peacekeeping mission.*Source African Report]]>