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China blocks UN report on the use of Chinese arms in Darfur

China attempts to block UN report on Chinese arms in Darfur. Ten killed in Mindanao bus bombing. Pre-election violence in Guinea rumbles on. Burma bans foreign observers from 7 November poll. All this and more in today's security update.
Josephine Whitaker
21 October 2010

The Chinese government has attempted to block a United Nations report which claims that Chinese bullets were used in attacks on UN peacekeepers in Darfur. A spokesman from the Chinese foreign ministry, Ma Zhaoxu, said the report was “based on unconfirmed information and made irresponsible accusations.” The report, researched and written by the UN’s panel of experts on Sudan was discussed in the UN committee that monitors sanctions on Sudan on Wednesday.

The Chinese government has responded angrily to suggestions that bullet casings from twelve different types of bullets manufactured in China were found at various sites in Darfur, including areas in which attacks on peacekeepers took place. Zhao Baogang, a Chinese representative at the UN, described the report as “full of flaws with too many unconfirmed facts.”

While China attempted to prevent the report from being sent to the Security Council for discussion next week, diplomats report that China got no support from other council members. Instead, the chairman agreed to add a letter providing additional information on sources to the report’s annex.

Under the terms of an embargo imposed on Sudan in 2005, foreign companies may legally sell armaments and munitions to the central government in Khartoum, as long as these are not used in Darfur. While China has long maintained that it abides by the terms of the embargo, critics of the sanctions argue that the terms are fundamentally flawed. While the US and UK claim that they would like to expand the resolution to ban the sale of all arms to Sudan, many argue that this would be made impossible by Chinese oppositions.

China is a key ally of government of Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, and has played major role in the development of Sudanese oil industry.

Ten killed in Mindanao bus bombing

A bomb attack on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao has left at least nine people dead, according to official reports. An unconfirmed number of others were also left seriously injured when the bomb, believed to have been concealed in an overhead locker, detonated. The explosion occurred earlier today as the bus was travelling through Matalam, a small town in central Mindanao enroute to Tacurong City, North Cotabato.

Although there has been no initial claim of responsibility, a number of groups are under investigation, according to police spokesmen. Criminal gangs operating in the state are infamous for demanding money from private companies in return for ‘protection,’ and it is thought that the company in question had recently received extortion demands. However, Muslim rebels fighting for an independent homeland have been active in Mindanao for decades, and have been known to use bomb attacks before.

Attacks come at a politically sensitive time, ahead of village elections due to take place next week. Elections in this south east Asian state are regularly blighted by political violence. President Benigno Aquilo III has offered his sympathies to all those killed, and promised to take steps to provide enhanced protection to those areas at risk of attack.

Pre-election violence in Guinea rumbles on

At least two protestors have been killed and a number of others injured in yet another wave of unrest just six days before run-off presidential elections due to be held in Guinea. Supporters of Cellou Dalein Diallo, front-runner in June’s first round of presidential elections, clashed with police in several areas of the capital, Conakry, on Monday. Local witnesses report that security officials opened fire on Diallo’s supporters during a demonstration demanding the replacement of the head of the national electoral commission. Diallo has accused the police of “beating [his] supporters, killing some of them and arresting others.” Local hospitals report receiving over thirty casualties, including young men and women.

Guinea’s first democratic elections since independence from French rule in 1958 have been marred by violence and uncertainty since June. In September, the head of the national electoral commission was convicted on fraud charges, which provoked skirmishes between rival political activists on the streets of Conakry. Although Ben Sekou Sylla died days after his conviction, the interim government’s failure to agree on a consensus candidate to replace him has created more uncertainty, pushing the run-off back by several weeks and increasing mistrust on all sides.

His replacement, Lounceny Camara, is seen by Diallo as being too close to his opponent, Alpha Conde, who secured just 18% in the first round elections. A Conakry court is due to rule later today on a case brought by Diallo’s party accusing Camara of electoral fraud. The verdict is likely to be incendiary regardless of the court’s decision, and Guinea is bracing for further violence.  

Burma bans foreign observers from 7 November poll

Authorities in Burma have announced that they will not allow foreigners into the country to observe the country’s first elections for twenty years, scheduled to take place on 7 November. Foreign diplomats and journalists based in Burma will be allowed to observe polling, but additional personnel will not be permitted to enter the country because, according to government officials, there is no need for their presence.

This announcement has intensified concerns about Burma’s forthcoming elections. Although the junta touts them as a vital part of its roadmap to democracy, next month’s poll is already widely seen as unfair. The 2009 constitution, and electoral rules established earlier this year, reserve 25% of parliamentary seats for military representatives. Stringent rules governing the registration of political parties have effectively banned many from contesting the elections. This has particularly affected the National League for Democracy, previously the leading voice in Burma’s pro-democracy movement. The NLD, lead by Aung San Suu Kyi, which won a landslide victory in Burma’s last democratic elections in 1990, was forced to disband after it decided not to register for elections. Had the NLD decided to register, it would have had to expel Suu Kyi, who has previously been convicted by the junta on criminal charges and is therefore banned from standing as a candidate.

A representative from Reporters without Borders says this latest restriction demonstrates that the junta has no intention of holding free and fair elections. The United States described the junta’s decision as “unfortunate,”  while Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesman, said that “the (UN) Secretary General has repeatedly called for the elections to be held in an inclusive, transparent and free and fair atmosphere. And so anything that foes against that is naturally a cause for concern.”

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