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China complicit in Sudan dam rights abuse: activist

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May 18, 2007 (BEIJING) — A leading opponent of a Chinese-financed dam in Sudan accused Beijing Friday of complicity in widespread human rights abuse, as Khartoum moved to relocate 70,000 villagers to make way for the project.

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Merowe Dam construction

Beijing was directly involved in Khartoum’s plundering of land and water resources at the Merowe Dam project in northern Sudan, Ali Askouri told journalists.

"This project violates the basic right of our community," Askouri, head of the Piankhi Research Group and a representative of communities affected by the Merowe Dam project, said.

"The Chinese only deal with officials, they don’t sit down with local communities ... this is a very dangerous approach and is (leading to the) open destruction of lands and the plundering of African society."

In April last year, unidentified militiamen attacked a community meeting in the town of Amre that was discussing the dam, killing three opponents of the project and injuring up to 40, Askouri said.

"This is a way of terrorising people to get out of the area," he said.

"We are witnessing continued human rights violations, from detentions to unlawful arrests, abuse and persecution ... six community leaders are currently detained for unclear reasons."

One of the main complaints of dam opponents is that villagers are being relocated to desert areas and not being allowed to rebuild their homes near water, he said.

The 1.8-billion-dollar Merowe Dam on the upper reaches of the Nile river is the largest hydropower project currently under construction in Africa and will have 1,250 megawatts of installed capacity when completed at the end of 2008.

China’s Export-Import Bank was financing the dam to the tune of 540 million dollars, while French engineering firm Altsom had a 300-million-dollar contract for generators and German firm Lahmeyer International was providing technical expertise, Askouri said.

Askouri fingered all three enterprises as complicit in the ongoing abuse.

He also said about 5,000 Chinese workers were building the dam and were being kept separate from local communities by a 600-strong security force that some people believe were behind last year’s shootings.

(AFP)

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