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September 29, 2014

China-Africa in the news: China hosts South Sudan rebels, Chinese firms exporting “tools of torture,” and Shanghai Electric wins $1.2 billion contract in Namibia

South Sudan rebels travelled to Beijing, China, to meet with Chinese government officials over the conflict in South Sudan. The rebel delegation was in Beijing on the invitation of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, according to China Daily.

The China Daily report says Beijing stressed its "fair and objective stance" on the conflict. However, the South Sudanese rebels have previously criticised Beijing for arming Salva Kiir's government during the conflict, accusing it of being driven by economic interest. China, it should also be said, is particularly concerned about the fighting in South Sudan despite its much-flaunted non-interventionist policy. South Sudan provided up to five percent of its oil imports before the violence broke out in December. It is also the biggest investor in oilfields in the East African country through its state-owned oil companies.

China also summoned the rebels' leader, Riek Machar, to Beijing for talks which will, among other things, address reports that China is arming the government in Juba. China also hopes to get a guarantee from the ex-vice president that the rebels will protect oil wells controlled by Chinese companies in the Unity and Upper Nile states.

China will also send 700 soldiers to South Sudan as part of the U.N. peacekeeping force.

Kenya's National Construction Authority decided not to pursue a levy it had earlier said the Chinese company contracted to construct a standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi owed to the state. China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) was mandated to pay $17.93 million as construction levy according to a recent law. According to Business Daily Africa, "developers whose projects exceed Sh5 million need to pay a construction levy of 0.5 per cent of the value of the contract before they can start work under regulations introduced mid-this year."

The Chinese company however insisted it signed the contract to construct the railway before the law came into effect in June. The Authority, which had initially asked CRBC to pay the levy, consequently backed off. Construction of the railway, which is part of a larger project to link Kenya to three other East African countries, is scheduled to start in October.

In Kenya, still, and about the same railway: an Italian firm that lost out to a Chinese firm in the bid to supervise the railway's construction is alleging that it was denied information about the contract. Team Engineering SpA told a Parliament committee that it suspects TSDI, the Chinese firm that won the contract in a consortium with two other local firms, was favoured by Kenya Railways Corporation. The Italian firm also mentions it's far higher bid - $73 million compared to the winning $42 million - as one of the reason behind its suspicions.

Ten years ago only 28 Chinese firms were manufacturing and exporting "tools of torture" - equipment used in human rights abuses by repressive governments - but that number now exceeds 130, according to Amnesty International. The equipment is bought by "law enforcement authorities in African and Southeast Asian nations," sometimes with inhumane objectives in mind. China's Ministry for Foreign Affairs dismissed the authenticity of the report, saying Amnesty International is "always biased against China."

Some Chinese universities are enrolling Namibian students into their medical programs despite the fact that they attained very low scores to qualify for those programs in their home country. The students, who “were declined entry at the University of Namibia,” face deportation from China after failing to pay for their education. However, the Namibian government says it cannot rescue them since their scores fall below the minimum for state sponsorship.

China donated $0.9 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo's efforts to fight an Ebola outbreak in its north east. Forty people have died of Ebola so far in the DRC. China has made larger contributions in West Africa where three countries are currently battling the virus.

Nigeria's Federal Capital Authority, home to its capital Abuja, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China Civil Engineering Construction for the construction of a light rail transit line.

China's Shanghai Electric was selected by Namibia to build a $1.2 billion gas-fired power plant. The plant is expected to have a total capacity of up to 1,050MW. German's Siemens AG, meanwhile, will supply generators and turbines for the project.

Two Chinese nationals were arrested in Malawi after they attempted to smuggle out ivory on a flight to China.

Three Nobel Laureates announced they will boycott the upcoming World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town, South Africa, to protest the refusal of the South African government to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama. Only four laureates have confirmed they will attend the October summit, down from the thirteen who were expected to attend.

The World Bank sanctioned a Chinese state-owned company for three years for misrepresenting its "experience during the procurement process in two World Bank-funded projects." China International Water and Electric Corporation, the suspended company, is currently constructing hydro-power dams in Uganda and Cameroon.  The World Bank sanctions however arose from "sanctionable practices involving the company in a hydropower project in Africa and a roads project in South East Asia." The sanctions mean it cannot work on World Bank projects.

A Zimbabwean legislator said some interesting things about some of the Chinese in his country: they are fake, interested in plundering Zimbabwe's resources, and are in partnerships with their enemies - the US and the United Kingdom. That MP, by the way, was one of the 27 Zimbabwean MPs who earlier this year were stranded in China during a shopping trip.

Raymond Mpubani, Wits China Africa Reporting Project

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