Africa’s steadfast friend in both good and bad times
The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, countries are still grappling g with insecurity, from both internal and cross-border conflicts.
Indeed, we are now living in a global village. Even those not directly involved in wars are increasingly realizing that no one is safe until the whole world is peaceful. But while there are the familiar faces that the world has been used to in peacekeeping initiatives, there are some that have done a lot but are yet to be recognized for their invaluable contribution.
China is one such player whose concrete actions to safeguard world peace has seen it participate actively not just in the United Nations peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs) vessel protection operations in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia, but in the fight against COVID-19 as well.
China champions a new vision of security featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and has firmly supported African countries and the African Union as well as other regional organizations in Africa in solving intra-continental challenges without imposing its ideas.
On August 1, 1927, the Chinese Communist Party fired the first shot against the Kuomintang reactionaries in Nanchang, which marked the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). For 94 years China has strived to maintain world peace, promote global growth and uphold international order. The country’s armed forces continue to act as a force of justice for world peace and development.
China is the second largest contributor to both peacekeeping assessment and payment of UN membership fees. It is also the largest troop-contributing country among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. China’s peacekeeping assessment for 2020-2021 accounts for 15.21 percent. Ever since participating in UNPKOs for the first time 31 years ago, China’s armed forces have sent over 40,000 peacekeepers to 25 UN peacekeeping missions, and the Chinese military peacekeepers have left their footprints in many African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic.
Currently, there are over 2,000 Chinese military peacekeepers in Africa, which accounts for more than 80 percent of Chinese troops around the world, and more than 75 percent of UNPKOs in Africa. China has sent formed units such as engineers, medical, transport, helicopter, force protection and infantry units and military professionals such as staff officers, military observers and seconded officers to UNPKOs in Africa.
These peacekeeping troops have conducted various tasks like ceasefire supervision, stabilizing the situation, protecting civilians, providing force protection and deployment enabling capabilities. They have made a tremendous contribution to facilitating the peaceful settlement of disputes, safeguarding regional security and stability, and promoting economic and social development of many African countries.
Since December, 2008 the Chinese government has dispatched naval ships to carry out regular vessel protection operations in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia. Chinese PLA Navy task groups cooperate with multiple naval forces in the area to safeguard international SLOCs. In the past decade, 38 Chinese PLA Navy conveys, each consisting of three to four ships, have been dispatched to conduct vessel protection operations. They have provided security protection for over 7,000 Chinese and foreign ships, and rescued, protected or assisted over 70 ships in distress.
As the pandemic continues to rage across Africa, the Chinese military has taken positive action to fully implement President Xi Jinping’s directive on making China’s COVID-19 vaccine a global public good. Since March the Chinese military has provided COVID-19 vaccines to the militaries of, among other countries, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Guinea, Mozambique and Mauritania.
In the past three years, China firmly implemented the peace and security initiative proposed by Xi during the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in Beijing. The Chinese military held the first China-Africa peace and security forum in 2019, and nearly 100 representatives from 50 African countries and the AU including 15 defense ministers and chiefs of staff attended the forum, discussing the initiative of building a China-Africa community with a shared future. This year, the 2021 FOCAC summit will be held in Senegal, which will further promote China-Africa peace and security cooperation to greater heights.
The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi based research and development communication think tank.