Sudan's oil: A blessing or a curse?
The protracted civil war in Sudan is likely to assume a more intricate dimension with the commencement of exportation of oil from the vast African State.
Presenting a paper at conference on Sudan in Milan, Italy, (September 17-18) the Director of Canadian NGO Freedom Quest International, Mel Middleton, said the abundant revenue from oil meant that the Sudanese junta had lost any incentive whatsoever for a peaceful solution to the conflict. The government's earnings from the oil are estimated at $2 million a day
A Canadian company, Talisman Energy Inc., last August exported 600,000 barrels of oil from Sudan upon the completion of a 1,500 kilometre long pipeline it runs in partrnership with the state oil companies of China, Malaysia and Sudan. The pipeline runs from the oil fields in the Unity State to Port Sudan. It currently has a capacity to handle 100,000 barrels a day but will be able to handle double the number when fully operational in two year's time.
Freedom Quest International is a member of Sudan Inter-Agency Reference Group (SIARG), a forum for Canadian agencies working on/in Sudan. Other members of SIARG include Canadian Friends Service Committee, Canadian Labour Congress, Emmanuel International, Steelworkers Humanity Fund and Inter-Church Coalition on Africa.
"Why would a brutal junta, which has violated virtually every human right in the book, make peace with its adversary if it has the resources to be victorious and impose its final solution,? Middleton posed.
"Dictators are not known for their magnanimity. Or are we to assume that there has been some form of collective epiphany and that the Sudanese rulers have all repented and purified themselves in the waters of the Red Sea?"
Sudan has been engulfed with a vicious brutal civil war since 1983. The war, spearheaded by the southern rebels under the John Garang-led SPLA, seeks a democratic, secular Sudan that is devoid of discrimination on any grounds.
The current Sudanese regime, now in its 10th year, came to power by the barrel of the gun that displaced the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq el-Mahdi. It has unleashed untold terror on both Muslims and Christians opposed to its fundamentalist policies while ignoring international censure and frustrating numerous peace initiatives.
Middleton described Talisman as "a respected company, the darling of the Canadian business community and an influential blue chip corporation with abundance of capital''.
Their decision to venture in Sudan, he pointed out, was made with very little thought given to the impact on the human rights situation in the country.
He said: "Talisman CEO Jim Buckee admitted that neither he nor anyone from the company had spoken to anyone connected with any of the opposition parties. They had gathered their information solely from the Sudan government, the Canadian government, the UN and a few small NGOs working in government-held areas of Sudan."
Talisman further rationalised their venture, arguing that the exploitation of Sudan's oil resources would go ahead whether they were there or not. "If the Canadians were not here, the Germans, or Dutch, or Italians, or someone else would be. So Canadian companies may as well cash in on the deal.''
To the Sudanese Embassy in Rome, there was no cause for alarm but every reason for Sudanese to jubilate about the new development. The Deputy Head of the Mission, Mr Altereifi Ahmed Kormino, said the exploitation of the oil would accelerate the termination of the civil strife.
"The oil revenue would bring riches to Sudan and as you all know, rich people do not fight," he said.
"Why is there no war in the USA, in Canada or Italy?" Kormino posed and explained that contrary to Middleton's fears, the Sudanese government would use the earnings from the oil exports to improve infrastructure, fight ignorance and disease, minimise infant mortality and raise the life expectancy in Sudan.''
Mr. Kormino also refuted claims that the pipeline was under surveillance of 20,000 specially-trained Chinese militias. "The truth is that there are only 6,000-7,000 Chinese protecting the pipeline,'' he said.
The SPLA representative in Nordic Countries, Mr. John Duku, while supporting Middleton's sentiments, warned that any multi-national corporation exploiting Sudan's vast oil resources, before peace and justice are attained, risked paying dearly.
"The SPLA's position is that any oil corporations in Sudan are legitimate military targets. Let nobody be under any illusion about that."
And as if to confirm Duku's threat, an explosion on September 20 ruptured the pipeline near Atbara, about 275 km northeast of Khartoum.
A rebel spokesman, Lieutenant-General Abdel Rahman Said, was later quoted as saying they had blown the pipeline to deliver a message to Khartoum's Islamist government.
"We wanted to show the government that we are able to do what we want," he told Reuters in Cairo.
Industry sources in Singapore said the damage would take about one week to repair.
The Milan conference, was organised by the Italian Campaign for Peace and Justice in Sudan. It's theme was: Peace perspectives for Sudan: A rebirth of the civil society.
It was promoted by a group of associations, NGOs and Italian information organs (Pax Christi, Acli, Amani, Arci, Caritas, Cesvi, Cuore Amico, Mani Tese and Nigrizia) that have for a long time been involved in solidarity initiatives with the peoples of the South, particularly in Africa.
The Italian campaign has been active since April 1995, with the aim of supporting peace process and the respect of human rights in the African State that has witnessed decades of conflict. Towards this end, the Campaign has been lobbying at the political level, with the Italian government. It has promoted a wider and better information on Sudanese situation, to involve the public opinion, through the use of media and collection of 50,000 signatures on its initial document.
Other presenters at the Milan Forum were Richard Gray, professor emeritus of African History, Hungarian Dr. Gasper Biro, who until last year was the special rapporteur of the United Nations on violations of human rights in Sudan, Prof. Peter Woodward of University of Reading, UK, former Sudanese vice-president (under Jaffar Numeiry) Abel Alier, northern Sudanese lawyer Ghazi Suleiman and Adlan Hardallo, Professor of Politcal Science at the University of Khartoum and former president of the Khartoum University Academic Union.
Impressive score for peace deal
The Wunlit Dinka-Nuer Covenant continues to bear impressive fruits since its signing last March, a report from the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC) says.
At a recent special forum in Yirol County in the Bahr el-Ghazal region, the Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace Council gave a summary of the ways in which the two largest southern Sudanese communities have continued to benefit from the peace deal brokered by the NSCC.
The Wunlit meeting had charged the Peace Council with the responsibility of ensuring the implementation of the Covenant resolutions.
According to the report, the gains so far made from the unprecedented peace initiative include the freeing of 148 abductees, return of 141 cattle to their rightful owners, formalising of five marriages involving former abductees and the arrest and arraignment of those involved in any identified acts of violation.
Others are the opening of extensive trading routes, peaceful reception of thousands of displaced Nuer entering Dinka areas as a result of Government of Sudan-sponsored fighting in Western Upper Nile, sharing of common grazing areas and fishing sites as well as extension of the reconciliation process to the East Bank of the Nile among Nilotic and Equatorian people.
Twenty-three Council members, representing nine out of 11 counties and provinces along the border areas of Bahr el-Ghazal and Western Upper Nile attended the meeting at Yirol.
In addition, several radio operators underwent an intensive training in use of radios as a preparation for the establishment of border posts that are a key to the implementation of the Wunlit resulutions.
The Dinka and the Nuer, both of whom are cattle keepers, have since time immemorial fought numerous battles, most of which have revolved around livestock and grazing lands.
With the outbreak of the current phase of the Sudanese civil war in 1983, the tribal animosity assumed a political angle with Khartoum tacitly fueling it to make the southerners perpetually vulnerable pawns.
It is against such a background that the NSCC undertook to reconcile the two communities through the Wunlit Covenant.
In the Wunlit deal, amnesty was granted for offences committed prior to January 1, 1999, freedom of movement across lines of conflict was affirmed and inter-communal commerce, development and services encouraged.
Other resulutions reached were:
- All hostile acts shall cease between Dinka and Nuer whether between their military forces of armed civilians.
- Border grazing lands and fishing grounds shall be available immediately as shared resources.
- Displaced people are encouraged to return to their original homes or re-build relationships with their neighbours.
- The spirit of peace and reconciliation of the Covenant to be extended to all communities in southern Sudan.
Delegation seeks tips from South Africa
The Sudan Catholic Bishops' Regional Conference (SCBRC) will send its Justice and Peace Preparatory Committee on a one-week fact-finding tour of South Africa.
The tour, set to begin on October 18, will be part of the intended elaborate exposure of the group members to countries where the Church has had a long tradition of searching for peace and justice.
The Sudanese Catholic Bishops, working in a country engulfed with a brutal civil war for decades, have set themselves a principal objective of formation of a Justice and Peace Commission to enhance lobbying in both north and south Sudan.
Sudan's civil war, deeply rooted in the country's colonial past, pits the mainly Arab and Islamic north against the pre-dominantly Christian and traditionalist south. Its current phase, dating back to 1983, has together with its attendant consequences, claimed an estimated 1.9 million lives. It has sent thousands into exile and earned Africa's most expansive state the ignominious distinction of having the largest number of internally displaced populations.
The decision to form the body that will be touring South Africa was arrived at during the Bishops' plenary meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, last August.
The group is expected to conduct research within and without Sudan, investigate and report on the structure, purpose and mandate of the intended Justice and Peace Commission.
The Bishops chose South Africa, among others, because of the tremendous efforts the church made towards reconciliation of the racially divided nation during the apartheid era. The apartheid rule came to an end in South Africa in 1994 with the holding of successful multi-racial presidential and parliamentary elections.
The election saw Nelson Mandela win to become South Africa's first democratically elected president. Mandela has since surrendered the baton to Thabo Mbeki, having completed his first five-year term in office.
Leading the Sudan delegation will be His Lordship Caesar Mazzolari, the Bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek.
Others making the trip will be Daniel Adwok, the Auxillary Bishop of Khartoum and Johnson Akio Mutek, who is the Auxillary Bishop Torit Diocese. Fathers Celestino Paul and Camillo Afore and Mr. Francis Bassan will also make the trip.
SUDAN CATHOLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
Bethany House, P. O. Box 21202, Nairobi, Kenya
tel. +254.2.577595 or 577949, fax 577327
For further information, please contact:
Fr. Kizito, SCIO, tel +254.2.577595 - fax +254.2.577327 - e-mail: SCIO@MAF.Org