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Africa: Oil, Global Influence Driving Hu Jintao’s Trip

China’s energy-hungry economy and global influence are driving President Hu Jintao’s 12-day tour of Africa which kicks off this week.

It is Hu’s second trip to Africa in less than a year. The visit, which starts Tuesday, will take him to Cameroon, Namibia, Mozambique, the Seychelles, Sudan, South Africa, Zambia and Liberia. He returns home Feb. 10.

“China is moving in a big way in Africa. It is a high priority for China in terms of oil, mineral resources, trade and investment of which infrastructure is a part,” Francis Kornegay of the Johannesburg-based Centre for Policy Studies told IPS in an interview.
“China’s growth needs a lot of natural resources. Oil is top of its agenda. And Sudan is high too. China is also sourcing oil from Angola, Gabon, Nigeria and Chad,” he said.

But Hu’s trip is raising concerns particularly among civil society and human rights activists who accuse Beijing of placing profits above people’s lives wherever it is doing business.

In an open letter to China’s president on Jan. 29, Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division of the New York-based Human Rights Watch urged China to use its influence to end the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur and to use the revenue from the Sudanese oil for the benefit of the poor.

“(We) encourage the Government of Sudan to place a portion of its oil revenues in an internationally administered trust fund for the victims of atrocities. It is clear that the vast majority of Sudan’s oil revenues are not benefiting the millions of Sudanese citizens who require basic services and even international food aid to survive,” Adams wrote.

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