Monday, September 19, 2016

Africa and South China Sea Dispute

Last July the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines that China's claims in the South China Sea have no legal or historical basis. China has been waging a global campaign to obtain international support for its position in the South China Sea. Much of the information on the position of various countries is confusing. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies established the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative to track responses on the South China Sea dispute.

African countries are a long way from the South China Sea and seemingly have little to gain by being drawn into this dispute. Indeed, most African countries have remained aloof. On the other hand, China has growing influence in Africa and certainly pressured African governments to support its position. Prior to the South China Sea arbitration ruling, 16 African governments (out of 54) supported China's position that the Arbitral Tribunal is illegitimate. The 16 countries were: Algeria, Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Tunisia. Except for Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Niger, and Togo, the other countries supported China as members of the League of Arab States and the joint Doha Declaration.

Since the announcement of the arbitration ruling, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reports that so far only Sudan in Africa has joined with China in publicly opposing the ruling. Algeria issued a neutral statement without addressing the ruling. Other African governments have publicly remained silent.

The following African countries have not publicly confirmed China's claim of support: Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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