On Wednesday China urged renewed peace efforts be implemented in South Sudan after the United Nations said rebels slaughtered hundreds of civilians when they seized the South Sudan oil hub of Bentiu. During the massacre, the United Nations said rebels hunted down men, women and children who had sought refuge in a hospital, mosque and Catholic church. More than 1 million people have fled from their homes since December when fighting erupted in the world’s youngest country between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to his sacked vice president, Riek Machar.

China has played an unusually active diplomatic role in South Sudan and is the biggest investor in its oil industry. Bentiu is the capital of South Sudan’s oil-producing Unity state. Oil firms in South Sudan, a country roughly the size of France, include China National Petroleum Corp, India’s ONGC Videsh and Malaysia’s Petronas. In February, China’s special envoy to Africa, Zhong Jianhua, said that China’s efforts to help resolve the conflict in South Sudan marked a “new chapter” in its foreign policy that would seek to engage more in Africa’s security.

(Chicago Tribune, Reuters, News, April 23)