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Oil Money Supercharges Sudan's Civil
War
By Karl Vick
International Herald Tribune
June 13, !!1
Sudan Oil built the airport at Heglig, the lavishly outfitted hospital next door and the
new school at Debap. Oil built the electricity towers stippling the horizon and the
tightly packed, all-weather road that runs across the broad savanna to entiu, where a
thatched roof keeps the sun off !eronica "yabiele. She is #$ %onths old, but
%alnutrition has held her weight to four kilogra%s.
Oil has a role in that, too.
&n a civil war that see%s to be fueled by so %uch - religion, for exa%ple, because one
side is 'usli% and the other side is not, and race, because one side is (rab and the
other (frican - nothing has supercharged the fighting in southern Sudan )uite like
"ile lend crude.
'uch oil was discovered in south-central Sudan in the #*+,s. efore it was drawn to
the surface and piped north two years ago, the slightly waxy, light-grade petroleu%
was %erely one %ore token of the schis% between Sudan-s ruling north and neglected
south, so%ething for the north to clai% and the south to contest.
.oday, four oil co%panies are producing %ore than $,,,,,, barrels a day - and %ore
fir%s are exploring other reserves. /xport revenue has doubled the govern%ent-s
%ilitary budget over two years. (nd a %ultitude of eyewitness reports say the new
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guns are being used to drive tens of thousands of southerners - like !eronica and her
fa%ily - off their land to secure the oil underneath. 0.he fighting follows the oil,0 said
1ohn 2yle, an independent investigator who recently released a report that
docu%ented a broad govern%ent effort to clear the petroleu% concessions, so%eti%es
using helicopter gunships stationed at oil-field airports.
0& wouldn-t use the ter% -scorched earth,- which i%plies a kind of syste%atic
ca%paign,0 'r. 2yle said. 0ut they are burning and attacking villages.0
Such tactics are nothing new in Sudan-s civil war, which has raged for #3 years.
4overn%ent troops and allied %ilitias have been fighting rebel groups seeking
autono%y for the country-s southern provinces. Hu%an rights groups and aid workers
say the govern%ent has razed villages, bo%bed hospitals and churches and supported
the %ilitias- abduction of southerners as slaves. .he rebels have been accused of
si%ilar atrocities on a lesser scale. ut the presence of oil has brought the fighting to
new areas, where it drives local people out of the countryside and into govern%ent-
held garrisons such as entiu. Once it was a town of #5,,,,6 now its population can
triple or )uadruple depending on the intensity of fighting nearby. ( handful of 7" and
private agencies stand by with food and %edical care. .he worst cases end up, like
!eronica, as stick figures in the therapeutic feeding center run by (ction (gainst
Hunger, an international charity.
0.hey all say the sa%e thing,0 an aid worker said. 08eople ca%e and destroyed their
ho%es and they had to flee.0
.he situation has further stoked 9estern outrage over the Sudanese govern%ent-s
hu%an rights record. 9hile no (%erican co%panies are involved - 7.S. law prohibits
the% fro% doing business in Sudan - the involve%ent of :anadian and /uropean
fir%s in extracting Sudanese oil has pro%pted 0disinvest%ent0 ca%paigns like those
directed against fir%s that did business with apartheid-era South (frica.
0.hese are war cri%es,0 said /ric 2eeves, a S%ith :ollege professor who works
against co%panies doing business in Sudan.
.he criticis% has fallen hardest on .alis%an /nergy &nc., a :algary-based fir% that
was little known outside :anada until it bought a $5 percent stake in Sudan-s %ost
pro%ising oil field. .he 'uglad basin is classic geography for oil, a sedi%entary plain
exposed by two plates being pulled apart. 7nfortunately, the sa%e area roughly
defines the boundary between Sudan-s north and south.
/xcept on %aps, the country-s two halves have never beco%e one. .he 'usli% (rabs
of the arid north historically preyed on the (fricans who live in the wetter south and
practice :hristianity or traditional beliefs. ritish colonialists actually separated the
two. "ational independence in #*5; was )uickly followed by a sporadic war for
southern secession. (nd although the fighting was in abeyance when :hevron :orp.,
the 7.S. oil co%pany, sank wells north of entiu in #*+3, the discovery of oil helped
renew the conflict in #*3<.
$
0&t is a proble% of uneven distribution of resources and power,0 said (lfred .aban, a
southerner who publishes the independent =hartou% 'onitor. 0.he northerners have
taken up all the ground.0
:hevron pulled out in #*3>, after rebels killed three of its e%ployees. .he oil fields
stood largely idle until #**+, when the Sudanese govern%ent %ade peace with so%e
of the rebel factions and for%ed a consortiu% to renew exploration. .he partners
included the :hina "ational 8etroleu% :orp., the 'alaysian national oil co%pany
8etronas and the Sudanese co%pany Sudapet ?td. ut .alis%an was the show horse.
"ot only did the co%pany bring technical expertise to build a #,>5,-kilo%eter @*,,-
%ileA pipeline fro% the Heglig oil field to 8ort Sudan on the 2ed Sea, it also carried
the stature of a 9estern oil fir%, credentials craved by the govern%ent, which spent
%uch of the #**,s under 7" and 7.S. sanctions because of its support of terroris%.
0'y ulti%ate goal is to be the biggest oil exporter in the world,0 said (wad 1az,
Sudan-s energy %inister. 'r. 1az has said any 7.S. oil co%pany could expect
favorable ter%s if the sanctions were lifted.
ut 9estern diplo%ats say 7.S. fir%s are not lobbying hard to Boin .alis%an and
share its i%age proble%. 'r. 2eeves boasts that the divest%ent ca%paign has cost the
co%pany every one of its public institutional investors, fro% the :ity of "ew Cork to
the .exas teachers- pension fund. :a%paigners are now pressing Didelity &nvest%ents
to divest, as well as pushing to ban oil concerns doing business in Sudan fro% being
listed on 7.S. stock exchanges.
.alis%an has hired a Sudanese se%inary student to buff its i%age and for%ed an
office of corporate responsibility that points out that the oil areas have an
infrastructure uni)ue in this strikingly poor country of <, %illion peopleE new water
wells, schools, clinics and the Heglig hospital, extraordinarily well-e)uipped for rural
(frica, co%plete with operating roo% and neonatal unit.
0.here-s poverty, on the downside,0 said Hel%ut 4utsche, .alis%an-s field production
%anager at Heglig, where foreign e%ployees fly in for $3-day shifts, living in a tidy
ca%p of steel trailers. 0On the upside, we-re trying to i%prove things.0
.alis%an also bought satellite photos to try to prove that its oil fields have always
been largely vacant, but students of the Sudan war have long watched the fighting
overlap with the oil concessions. (nd, though .alis%an-s lightly populated operation
areas were first cleared perhaps two decades ago, 'r. 2yle and a :anadian researcher
docu%ented recent helicopter attacks near its fields. .hey also found deserting
soldiers who said their %ission was to drive people away fro% the oil fields.
0&t-s kind of a raggedy syste% of harass%ent, but it does see% to be classic
counterinsurgency,0 'r. 2yle said. 0Cou-re trying to get people to co%e into the towns
so you can keep an eye on the%, or drive the% farther into the swa%ps.0 .oday,
however, %ost of the fighting is farther south, nearer a concession leased to ?undin
Oil, a Swedish co%pany. ?ocal residents were driven out over the past two years,
largely through surrogatesE .he Sudanese govern%ent ar%s one southern %ilitia,
which raids the area, looting along the way.
<
Still farther south, a %uch larger bloc has long been held by the Drench giant
.otalDina/lf. &n fact, the Sudanese govern%ent has chopped %uch of the south into
oil concessions reaching nearly to the 7gandan border. :ritics see each bloc as
another potential battlefield in a war that has already killed $ %illion people.
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