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The Real Price of Oil in Sudan
by John Maxwell
“‘Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It's the devil's excrement. We are drowning in the devil's excrement.' –Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, former Venezuelan oil minister and a founder of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), speaking in the early 1970s.
The Sudan is the largest country in Africa, one of the largest countries in the world, about a quarter the size of the United States. It is really several nations, cobbled together into a national entity to suit the administrative conveniences of the British Raj.
Most of the population is black, including many of those described as Arabs. Sudan has been at war with its people almost as soon as it gained independence from Britain in 1956.
“In the oilfields of Sudan, civilians are being killed and rap
ed, their villages burnt to the ground. They are caught in a war for oil, part of the wider civil war between northern and southern Sudan that has been waged for decades. Since large-scale production began two years ago, oil has moved the war into a new league. Across the oil-rich regions of Sudan, the government is pursuing a ‘scorched earth' policy to clear the land of civilians and to make way for the exploration and exploitation of oil by foreign oil companies.” – Christian Aid, 2003.
The depopulation of the countryside began when Chevron first discovered oil in 1980. The genocide has continued under the auspices of several oil companies, including companies from th US, the UK, Canada, China , Austria, Britain , Sweden and Malaysia.
The attitude of the oil companies may be summed up by the comment of US Vice President Dick Cheney, when he was CEO of Halliburton six
years ago: “You've got to go where the oil is. I don't think about [political unrest] very much.”
There are several ci
vil wars in progress in the Sudan but the major struggle is between the government of the Sudan –Arab, and its black citizens in the south of the country. Without going into the political details, it is enough to say, and accurately, that the Sudanese government has for several years pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing in which over 2 million poor people have died, more than a million made homeless, while famine and misery stalk the burned and devastated land.
It isn't as if the Western world has not known about the real price of its oil.
Republican US Senator Sam Brownback told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2000 that “Sudan's bombing of churches, refuge centres
and other civilian targets is one of the worst cases of religious persecution in the world, and the Clinton administration is not doing enough to stop it.”
Senator Brownback said then that the US should intervene, giving development assistance to the people in the south or break diplomatic relations with the Sudan.
A spokesman for the State Department responded that Sudan's war is so complicated that its “difficult at times to take sides”. The spokesman, one Mr Seiple, said that concerted international effort would be ncessary to stop the slaughter.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the NGO, Human Rights Watch, released reports revealing the extent of
atrocities committed by the government of Sudan. Two years ago, Christian Aid, another NGO, released even more damning reports on the
bloody slaughter of the innocents being conducted under the auspices of oil companies. Christian Aid said that oil companies, in building
the Sudanese oil industry, offered finance, technological expertise and supplies. The government, employing its new riches, is emptying
the land of its people, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands. Oil industry infrastructure –roads and airstrips – are used by the
army and its allied militias in their campaign of murder, torture, rap
e and starvation.
Christian Aid says that the oil companies, including one from high-minded Sweden, remain largely silent. “Those directly engaged in production claim they have no knowledge of oil-related human rights violation on their land and that, however deplorable, human rights violations are not linked to their activities
According to Christian Aid – “Government forces and militias have destroyed harvests, looted livestock and burned houses to ensure that no-one, once displaced, will return home. Since the pipeline opened, the increased use of helicopter gunships and indiscriminate high-altitude bombardment has added a terrifying new dimension to the war. ‘The worst thing was the gunships,' Zeinab Nyacieng, a Nuer woman driven hundreds of miles from her home, told Christian Aid late last year. ‘I never saw them before last year. But now they are like rain.'”
The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) – a Trotskyist outfit, reported in May that “Khartoum is backing an Arab militia known as
Janjaweed (or Fursan or Peshmerga) for the purpose of terrorising the local settled black African population. It has also encouraged the region's nomadic Arab tribes—the Baggara—to do the same.
“Africa Analysis reports that at a recent meeting of the Baggara it was resolved to “empty the province” of its majority African population, and even to erase the name of Darfur, literally “home of the Fur”—the largest African group comprising approximately four million of the region's six million people.”
According to WSWS “ The Janjaweed, armed with automatic weapons, ride in to the peasant villages on horseback. They burn the huts and round up the young men who are often executed. Parents are sometimes forced to watch whilst their daughters, some as young as six, are gang raped. Many are subsequently branded or executed along with their parents. Bodies are often dumped into village wells in order to poison the water.
“Mosques are often torched, with Korans desecrated and religious leaders kille
d. All livestock, food and possessions are taken and the village left uninhabitable.
“The Sudanese military follows afterwards to mop up. Alternatively it carries out bombing raids beforehand. Sometimes the Janjaweed and the
military arrive together and set up a command post at the local police station prior to instigating a reign of terror.”
According to an African Union delegation, earlier this month the Janjaweed militia had chained people together and set them on fire.
In the south of the Sudan, a peace agreement was being negotiated between the non-Muslim opposition led by John Garang and the government under which Khartoum would remain under Muslim Shari'ah law but religious rights would be guaranteed to the rest of the population. “A secret rider had been thought to exist between Washington and Khartoum which undertook to remove the Shari'ah from the constitutional basis of government in Sudan. This was to be a potential vote winner for the religious right in the US elections—to
be trumpeted as the first time that a radical Muslim country has converted into a secular democracy.” – WSWS
Whether such a rider exists, in April, the United States opposed a resolution by the European Union in the UNCHR referring to the concern about the scale of human rights abuses and the humanitarian situation in Darfur. The resolution passed by 50 votes to one, with two abstentions. The only negative vote was that of the US.
On Friday this week, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, backed by the US this time, calling on Khartoum to disarm the Arab militias and halt the genocide in Darfur.
Incidentally, according to the Associated Press on Friday – “ChevronTexaco Corp.'s second-quarter profit more than doubled as high energy prices extended a recent roll that is shaping into the most prosperous stretch in the oil giant's 125-year history.”