Friday, July 17, 2009
David Axe of the War is Boring blog has a column in Wednesday's World Politics Review in which he suggests that Kenya might be funneling arms to South Sudan. Excellent. Well done, Kenya (of course I say this with complete and utter sarcasm).
According to Axe, the Ukrainian-owned vessel, Fania, which was captured by Somali pirates and returned to the port in Mombassa in February, was bound for the breakaway region in southern Sudan. The ship carried 33 Soviet-designed T-72 main battle tanks, plus other arms and ammunition - all of somewhat dodgy origin and ownership:
The Faina shipment apparently represented the third and final installment of a large batch of heavy weaponry for South Sudan, sourced from Ukraine and brokered by Nairobi. In November, the German magazine Der Spiegel claimed it had records proving an earlier shipment of 42 tanks that had largely escaped international scrutiny [...]
If this is indeed discovered to be true, it "would finger the Kenyan government in a sanctions-skirting arms race that some worry could result in another bloody civil warfare in Sudan." Kenyan military support for South Sudan would also put Nairobi at great odds with the U.S., which is one of the country's closest allies.
The Stop Arms to Sudan program of Human Rights First has a database of various countries' arms sales to Sudan between 2004-2006 (if anyone happens upon an updated version, do please let me know!). Not surprisingly, China is the foremost supplier of arms, but if you scroll down a ways you see that Kenya has done its fair share as well. The database is a conservative estimate at best as the data collected is that which the countries have divulged voluntarily (*chuckle chuckle*). The database also fails to specify where in Sudan the arms are being shipped, though it really isn't too difficult to guess.
Perhaps it is somewhat foolish to single out Kenya in such a way, as it is highly plausible that other African states are engaged in similar antics, though perhaps do a better job of remaining under the radar. At the same time, the outing of the Kenya-South Sudan relationship may perhaps do well to serve as a warning to other African countries embroiled in similar engagements. A comment by an Economist reader puts the matter in plain terms: "Kenyan Govt is fishing in a muddy waters. Beware what you do in the neighborhood."
Macleans - Canada's national weekly current affairs magazine - has a truly fascinating interview with academic and journalist Martin Jacques on the consequences of the coming global shift in power. The dialogue is particularly interesting because it discusses not only the ways in which China's political ideology will inform its (potential) hegemonic role, but it also does well to emphasize the particular tenets of Chinese culture which permeate its society and governance.
If we want to try and understand what China’s going to be like, then the best place to start looking is East Asia, because that is China’s own region. China’s culture has had a major inﬂuence on the whole region in varying degrees for thousands of years—most obviously in the case of Japan, Korea and Vietnam. It’s a very sophisticated culture from its language to its literature to its food. These are elements of what we’ve termed soft power, and Chinese soft power is going to be hugely influential in East Asia in the future.
In East Asia, and in Africa, and in Latin America....