ME and Ophelia

Thursday, June 03, 2004

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Civilian suffering continues in the oil regions

In June 2003, Christian Aid produced a report entitled How oil is fuelling war in Sudan. Here is a copy - in full:

As part of the trade justice campaign, Christian Aid is calling for effective regulation of transnational companies. This example shows how the presence of international oil companies continues to fuel war in Sudan.

In the south of Sudan, government troops and militias are terrorising, raping, killing and displacing thousands of people to make way for oil production by foreign oil companies. Christian Aid’s 2001 report, The Scorched Earth, described how the northern most oilfields in southern Sudan had been virtually cleared of villages. The report predicted that this would also be the fate of the oil-rich areas further south and, sure enough, thousands of people across the oil regions of Western Upper Nile have been killed or forced to leave their homes over the last year. The rights of foreign corporations are still taking precedence over those of Sudanese civilians.

Companies from Asia and Europe, including the UK, have helped build Sudan’s oil industry. Their very presence enables the government to secure revenues to help pay for the war. Oil industry infrastructure – the same roads and airstrips which serve the companies – is used by the army to conduct the conflict.

‘Oil is right on the frontline of our war. But if there’s peace, then money from oil must put right the damage that’s being done to people living around the oil fields, rather than being the reason for their suffering,’ says Acuil Banggol of SUPRAID, a Christian Aid partner organisation in southern Sudan.

Eyewitness accounts from 2002 revealed that Sudanese armed forces are deliberately attacking civilians in the oil regions of Western Upper Nile. Maria Nyaluak Gadet walked for ten days after government troops attacked her village near Pultuni, Western Upper Nile. ‘Antonovs came and gunships came,’ she says, cradling a dying child. ‘They burned our houses and chased us away.’

A consortium of oil companies, including the Austrian company OMV and Swedish company Lundin Petroleum, exploit the oil in Western Upper Nile. Both Lundin and OMV suspended their operations in January 2002, because of a ‘deteriorating security situation’. But, both before and during the suspension, the government of Sudan has continued to attack civilians and clear the area in preparation for a resumption of oil activities.

In September 2002, Christian Aid visited Ti-ir in Western Upper Nile, where people forced from their homes in the oil regions have found temporary shelter. ‘First the Bagara Arabs attacked us with horses, then the other militias,’ says Ruothkei, one of those forced to flee. ‘The helicopter gunships came, and we were running, then the Antonovs attacked us. Many people died, so many you couldn’t count them.’

In October 2002, the government of Sudan and the rebel movement – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement – signed an agreement to stop attacking civilians. However, the government has continued to attack communities around a road built to access the oil-producing areas.

Despite claims that it would not go back until there was a comprehensive and sustainable peace, OMV announced in March 2003 that it was taking the first steps to re-commence work. At the time, government and militia attacks around the oil fields were continuing and – crucially – in the peace negotiations, the issue of oil was proving to be a major sticking point.

‘The fighting is related to protecting the oil concessions. This [is] a serious undermining of the peace process,’ commented John Duku, SPLM representative to the European Union, in April 2003.

Sudan’s oil exports have paid for a home-grown Sudanese arms industry, as well as financing arms imports. ‘Sudan will be capable of producing all the weapons it needs thanks to the growing oil industry,’ General Mohamed Yassin claimed in April 2000.

Expansion of oil production goes hand in hand with attacks on civilians. Unless a just and lasting peace is achieved, these bloody attacks will continue.

Global, effective regulation of transnational companies is essential to prevent oil companies from operating in the midst of civil war. The rights of civilians must take precedence over the right of companies to drill for oil.

[Source of link to report via The UK Today and Doctor's Orders]
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Further reading:
May 27, 2004: Christian Aid warns Sudan peace deal is not end to conflict
May 27, 2004: Christian Aid recommendations on peace in Sudan
May 2004: Christian Aid in Sudan.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 6/03/2004
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