The Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) say they want China to withdraw its support for the Sudanese government.
"The oil revenue is not coming for the benefit of the people of Sudan, but to kill our people in Darfur," Jem field commander Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr told the BBC's Network Africa programme. "All the people of Darfur believe that China is a partner for this genocidal government in Khartoum," he said.
He has a point: China’s investment in Sudan is in principle neutral towards and in practice supportive of the al-Bashir government’s brutality in Darfur. But such crude, aggressive threats are more likely to backfire.
China has been sticking its fingers into a lot of African pies in recent years, giving loans and trade deals to resource-rich countries without banging on about human rights and good governance in the way that Western governments and international institutions do. This means they’ve built up a network of client states, many of which are repressive to varying degrees.
The Chinese cannot possibly risk sending a message to any dissident groups in these countries that they can be scared off with a bit of violence. This means that they will have to resist – and be seen to resist – this threat from the JEM. In this context, any pressure China put on the Sudanese government in the near future could be seen as a capitulation. So it becomes that bit trickier for the Security Council to take a united tough line against al-Bashir, who continues to throw up objections to the deployment of the UN force that’s due in January.
Either the JEM are politically inept, or they’re trying to bolster their position in advance of future negotiations – or they’re just pillaging under the guise of ‘resistance’. They, along with several other rebel groups, are boycotting talks that are scheduled for this weekend.
The Darfuri factions (and the government-allied Janjaweed) have become increasingly fragmented, as many local leaders vie for status and spoils – making a workable resolution all the harder to find.