As China’s investment in Sudan’s oil continues, China’s Foreign Ministry says four Chinese workers have been abducted in Sudan’s North Darfur region, according to AP:
Monday’s statement says the men are employees of the China Railway 18th Bureau Group who were building a road in North Darfur just outside the regional capital of El-Fasher.
Sudan’s state news agency SUNA has blamed the abduction on a Darfur rebel movement, but it stopped short of naming which group.
The news agency has reported that five Sudanese were also abducted along with the four Chinese workers, among them drivers and engineers.
China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Hong Lei, has said Beijing is urging Sudan to rescue the Chinese nationals, from the People’s Daily Online:
Since the Chinese nationals were kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region on Saturday, the Foreign Ministry has directed the embassy in Sudan to launch an emergency mechanism.
The embassy has made representations to Sudan’s relevant departments to strengthen the protection of Chinese nationals, Hong said at a daily press briefing.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety and security of overseas Chinese citizens and institutions, Hong said.
He stressed that the Foreign Ministry will work with relevant departments to direct the embassy and relevant companies to make every effort to rescue the Chinese nationals.
Despite Beijing’s demand to rescue the workers, critics say the Sudanese government is ‘incapable’ of the task. AsiaOne reports:
But Li Xinfeng, an expert on Sudanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Sudanese government, gripped by ethnic and territorial disputes, often finds itself incapable of managing the task.
“Chinese citizens in the country should always be alert, and at the very least make sure they never venture out alone”, he said.
He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the delay in claiming responsibility probably meant the kidnappers were likely to be seeking a ransom.
But Li said the kidnappers probably took the Chinese nationals because of the country’s close ties with Sudanese government, making them valuable bargaining chips.
According to The South China Morning Post, 18 military vehicles are pursing the kidnappers:
In recent years, there have been a wave of kidnappings for ransom in Darfur, where ethnic rebels a decade ago began an uprising against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government.
Although violence is down from its peak, villages have been razed and rebel-government fighting, banditry, inter-Arab and tribal disputes continue to afflict the region, in Sudan’s far west.
In December, a Sudanese court handed down life sentences to four Sudanese for killing a Chinese worker during a raid on a workers’ oil camp, the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre said. It gave no details.
Last year 29 Chinese workers were abducted by rebels,but the Chinese nationals were eventually released. Read more about China’s relationship with Sudan, via CDT.