The An Yue Jiang sets sail from Luanda, Angola

It is no small victory for those in Zimbabwe and in the rest of the world who have been watching the weapon bearing An Yue Jiang with bated breath. It is also no small victory for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), whose members – in a display of solidarity – refused to unload the deadly arms shipment from China, both in Angola and South Africa. It is suspected that the weapons ordered by the Mugabe regime, were intended to support his re-election during the presidential runoff campaign.

The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) and the ITF (International Taekwon-Do Federation), who played an active role in preventing the weapons from reaching Zimbabwe from the time that Noseweek broke the story some three weeks ago, remained in close touch with the Port Workers Union in Angola, who monitored all movements to and from the An Yue Jiang since it docked in Luanda. The Port Workers Union verified that only construction materials (cement etc.) destined for Angola were offloaded from the An Yue Jiang.

In their press statement, the International Taekwon-Do Federation told reporters that, under the watchful eye of Angolan Police, the An Yue Jiang refuelled, took on some supplies and set sail, with its controversial arms cargo still on board: destination China.

The International Taekwon-Do Federation also told the media that they will keep a watch on the movements of the ship and provide an update on its whereabouts later today.

The Mark of the Dragon: China in Zimbabwe…and Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Malawi

There remains an uneasiness among those of us who have remained as close as is humanly possible to the movement of the An Yue Jiang with its shipment of weapons from China to Zimbabwe. Uneasiness, that stems from the extent of Chinese involvement in the SADC countries, and the fact that most of these countries are unofficially ‘Chinese Colonies’.

Methinks we have lost the plot. We keep looking to the African countries surrounding Zimbabwe for a solution. We look at Namibia, Angola, Zambia and Malawi to stop the weapons, mostly because these countries have proclaimed themselves as democratic states and have said that they are eager for peace in the region. But in Africa, saying and doing are two very different things and everybody seems to forget that these very countries are deeply – perhaps even too deeply – involved with the arms shipment’s country of origin to be in a position to do anything except obey the will of their master.

We chide China for their irresponsibility. A small rap over the knuckles, no more. And China, with an eye on the upcoming Olympics, plays the role of the reprimanded gracefully – withdrawing the errant ship, or at least pretends to do so.

They are smiling to themselves, I am sure. Not in embarrassment, but in glee. The West is wrong – again.

China: Africa’s New Partner
You see, China was busy with other things while the rest of the world was busying them with the Middle East and with Eastern Europe. China found somebody to play their own brand of Monopoly with: Africa. And true war masters that they are, the Chinese had their strategy in place long before joining the game. In true Sun Tzu style, they chose each of their battlegrounds with care and won each piece of additional territory without a single shot being fired.

The countries they targeted were easy marks. They were all dead broke, run by kleptocrats (to varying degrees) and heavily indebted to the IMF. The terms imposed by the IMF did not necessarily suit their peculiar brands of democracy. And, considering from whence the IMF funding comes, the terms of these loans have instilled growing resentment towards the haves of the ‘imperialistic’ West.

Hence, when the Chinese arrived on their white dragons, bearing millions upon millions of Dollars in gifts, loans and advances, (initially no strings attached) they were received like long lost brothers – liberators from their imaginary foe, the West. But money, like any other opiate, could be addictive – and, as has been proven time and again, the addicted ends up becoming the lackey of the supplier. In Africa, the extent of the submission depends on the extent of the addiction.

Money is Sun Tzu’s golden thread in this instance: the thing that unites the senseless gluttony of these African leaders and the Chinese hunger for territory, commodities and power.

Want to know why I am uneasy about Angola? Read on.

China: The Angolan Puppeteer
trenched itself in Angola. The CSIS, in their recent report on the Angola China relations, tried to provide a (too) balanced view of the involvement of the Chinese in this country, with China’s involvement made out to be benevolence in exchange for crude oil. Now, I would call China many things, but benevolent isn’t one of these. They have been putting money into Angola, and they want something in return. Full stop. There is no such thing as free Chop Suey.

In addition to oil (Angola is the largest supplier of crude to China – 8.48 million metric tons in the first three months of this year alone), there are diamonds. And, in addition to diamonds there is employment for Chinese nationals. In a country that sports a ginormous unemployment figure, the number of Chinese nationals employed in Angola has increased from 192 in 2004 to 22,043 in 2007. 22,043 jobs that could have moved Angolan nationals from below the breadline to above it – jobs that are filled by people who cannot string two words in Portuguese together, and nearly as little in English. Get the picture?

Vast sums of money have been made available to Angola by the Chinese. Very little has filtered down towards improving conditions for the person on the street. Scholarships to China were donated to ‘enhance Angolan skills’. These only served to enhance the family members of parliamentarians’ skills.

The desire for arms and weapons (Chinese supplied of course) supersede the need of the populace for food. The need to reconstruct the railway between Benguela and Luanda (with Chinese money for Chinese ends) is greater than the need of the population for shelter, basic healthcare and education.

The Dos Santos regime is nominally democratic and but a small margin away from being a one party state. In fact, he could be a Mugabe understudy.

And China? Well, China has proven time and again that they do not particularly care about the fabric of a country’s leadership. The more corrupt the easier it is for them to get around. And, as usual they have no qualms about propping up a dictator as long as he is willing to dance under the big red puppeteer’s skilful hands.

In Closing

So, will Eduardo dos Santos really only allow construction material to be off-loaded? If construction material is indeed part of the cargo carried by the An Yue Jiang…

With things being as they are – and I do hope I am wrong – I would be pleasantly surprised if the alleged construction material does not pan out to be destruction material in the end.

The An Yue Jiang: Lloyds MIU Responds

Note: For background, refer to my blogs on the Zimbabwe China Arms Deal. The An Yue Jiang, which is carrying weapons from China that are destined for Zimbabwe, and that is thought to be heading to Angola, featured prominently in the last few blogs.

The An Yue Jiang, that was added to the Lloyds list on the 20th of April, disappeared off the casualties list of Lloyds MIU this morning. The last entry on the five-ship free portion of the site that remained after the An Yue Jiang was moved or removed, was a vessel that was reported as a casualty on the 19th of April 2008 – 1 day before the An Yue Jiang.

I requested access to Lloyds MIU by using an online form, but was denied on the grounds that Lloyds “only grant trial access to companies with a legitimate business need“. I suppose being a writer makes me less legitimate than most :).

The correspondence
Then, on my WordPress Blog’s Comments, up popped a message from Lloyds themselves. Mark Hankey, their representative, had the following to say:

“We never stated that the vessel sank.

We called it a casualty as it failed to discharge its cargo in the manner it expected. This is normal practice for us as we supply a lot of data to the insurance market and this type of information is of use to them.

We currently have no knowledge of the vessel being refuelled/bunkered or being detained by any navy.”

I then emailed Mr. Hankey, asking him the following:

“Thank you very much for the update you provided to my blog. I would like to publish it, but before I do please can you help me understand:

1. You added it to the list as a casualty because it did not dispose of its cargo as expected. Correct?

2. Could you please let me know why it was taken off the casualty list? Did it dispose of its cargo? Or are there are criteria used?

3. I just want to point out that we never stated that it sank. We merely speculated that the vessel may have run out of fuel as it was not allowed to take in fuel at Durban (it was anchored some 12km outside the port).”

In return, I received the following response from Mr. Hankey (Mr. Hankey’s reponse is in red):

“1. You added it to the list as a casualty because it did not dispose of its cargo as expected. Correct? – correct

2. Could you please let me know why it was taken off the casualty list? Did it dispose of its cargo? Or are there are criteria used? – it’s still there, but due to the timing it has been superseded by more recent casualties on the free part of the database
3. I just want to point out that we never stated that it sank. We merely speculated that the vessel may have run out of fuel as it was not allowed to take in fuel at Durban (it was anchored some 12km outside the port). – cool. Sorry for the misunderstanding. ”

The quandary
I am very grateful that Lloyds took the time to point out that the ship is indeed still on the casualties list. Now there remains but one issue – one that I find hard to get to grips with:

From the outset, I want to make it clear that I am in no position to personally verify whether the ship is still on the list or not because I could not get access to the database, so I am giving Lloyds the benefit of the doubt in this respect. There is no reason not to.

The only things that still bug me (and I regret not having taken thorough notes this morning) are:
(1) that the An Yue Jiang was superseded before an older casualty (the 19th of April casualty) was superseded, and
(2) that it took some 24 hours (perhaps longer) for Lloyds to list the ship after it failed to discharge is cargo in an expected manner.

These are questions I hope to clarify with Mr. Hankey during subsequent correspondence, provided that he will humour more questions from me.

The low-down
So, considering Lloyds’ feedback:

We should not necessarily assume that the vessel has run out of fuel.
We should not necessarily assume that it stopped its slow fuel-saving voyage to Luanda.
We should not necessarily assume that the vessel is headed towards Luanda.
We should not necessarily assume that it has been refuelled.
We should not assume that the ship still carries cargo, and we should not assume that it does.
Finally we should also not assume that the ship has been intercepted by any navy or that it is being led back towards any port – naval or commercial.

But that is not all…

Just where is the An Yue Jiang? The Navy won’t tell and Lloyds cannot tell.
Why is the route suddenly such a secret?
Is the cargo still on board? No response on that one either.
And, why all the attention…even my couple of newbie, basic, itty-bitty blogs are being flooded. And, some of the visitors appear not to be popping by out of curiosity only.

Right now there are simply too many questions and not a single answer to show for it.

PS. Original comment published on my WordPress Blog. You can follow the link from here.