ME and Ophelia

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

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Oil and conflict in Sudan
Take Action has ready-made emails to President Bush

Here is a copy of a comment left by a reader at Jim Moore's post on post entitled "SOS for Sudan":

Jim - you may want to consider contacting some of the companies and/or organizations that have the "Take Action" feature on their Web site that allows you to setup an account which will then determine your local legislators & allow you to send them a fax or email automatically as well as print out a letter to send via snail mail. While calling your member of congress will work best, I think there is a chance to get millions more participants this way. If you make it worldwide, you could have people contact their a) local representative, b) head of state, c) UN ambassador, d) other parties like the AU.

This one-click armchair activism if harnassed properly can be quite effective. Especially if you publicly keep track of how many people participate.
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Note to readers here from me, Ingrid: I googled "Take Action", and found the UCC site where Americans can send a ready-made email to President Bush. It takes a few seconds to complete. I tried but because I'm in England, it was returned to me saying: "Your letter could not be sent for the following reasons: This action is restricted to residents of specific countries."

It'd be good to see a similar site for those of us outside America. If anyone knows of such a site, please let me know and I'll post it with a link to your blog. Thanks. In the meantime, British readers could use some of the text from UCC's email and send it via email your MP.

I've written to my MP three times re the Sudan. And, left several messages at the blogs of two MPs. There's not much more I can do. Except to thank them, once again, here, here and here. I've donated one hundred and twenty pounds online to MSF and DEC. Politicians must feel public support when they see eyecatching news of appeals.

DEC, within hours of opening their lines were flooded with donations from the British public. DEC's appeal, which brings together eleven of the UK’s leading aid agencies, has a target of fifteen million pounds. Within just 36 hours, the British public had donated a massive five million pounds. It must help give the aid workers a boost too. There are several major Sudan Emergency appeals running in the UK. Everything helps as a signal of public support to the government, that will in turn help them when they're faced with decisions to mobilise troops for the massive aid operations in Chad and Sudan.
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Right now, I am one quarter of the way through reading an incredible report entitled "Sudan Update: Raising the stakes: Oil and conflict in Sudan".

The report provides an accurate picture of what has been going on in Sudan over past years. If anyone else reads it all the way through - and provides a summary on their blog - I will personally send them a popular Moleskine notebook at Christmas time. I don't expect too many people will be breaking down my blog door to write such a summary, so I guess I won't be overwhelmed by the mailing of many notebooks ;)

Below are a few extracts I've taken from the report. Sorry I cannot spend more time on it. Must get this published. I'm serious about about the Moleskine gift. The report is packed full of useful details that will take me too long to summarise. I'd like to share it here asap in the hope that it gets a wider reading. It's an important report (who authored it?) as it shows what the National Islamic Front (NIF) government of Sudan has been up since it stole power fifteen years ago. Last Friday's UN resolution giving Khartroum 30 days will not make the slightest difference - even if they were given another 30 or 60 days. The report (looks like it was published in 1999) explains the reasons why. Here are some excerpts:

Oil and conflict in Sudan

On 30 August 1999, Sudan filled its first tanker-load of oil.
Now, Sudan, Africa's largest country, could join OPEC and hold its head up as an oil exporter alongside Saudi Arabia and Libya, said Sudan's government ministers. Their critics replied that if it did join OPEC it would be politically insignificant alongside the major producers. Better parallels would be with the repression, sabotage, corruption and pollution encountered in Burma, Colombia or the Niger Delta.

Just three weeks later, on 20 September 1999, opponents of Sudan's military regime blew a hole in the newly-completed pipeline.

The attack shattered the calculated charm of the government's recent public relations efforts. It began issuing threats to neighbouring Egypt and Eritrea, demanding that they expel the opposition's leaders there, while arresting opponents and lashing out at the local press. "Its campaign to convince the world that it has security under control, and that serious talks about ending Sudan's war are now possible, [seem] to be wrong on both counts." (Africa Confidential 8 October 1999)

The explosion also embarrassed the Board members of the Greater Nile Operating Company, including Talisman Energy Inc of Calgary - formerly British Petroleum Canada - who were meeting in Khartoum that week. They had claimed for years that the only risk to their project was in the southern war zone, and that peace was in any case close at hand.

Now they were under greater pressure than ever to talk to the banned opposition, which had long since declared their installations throughout the country to be military targets. However, their tone remained defiant. Just a public relations failure, they said.

How much oil is there? Proven oil reserves are enough to last some 15 years. Not enough to solve any of Sudan's deep-rooted problems, but enough to create plenty more.
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"Sudan accounts for the largest number of the world's uprooted people. More than 4.3 million Sudanese have been forced to flee because of the continuing bloody civil war in the south and east. One out of every eight refugees and displaced persons in the world are Sudanese. (U.S. Committee for Refugees USCR World Refugee Survey)
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Oilfields, which lie underneath the dividing line between the warring north and south of the country, have been fuelling conflict for the last 20 years.

The oil-rush has long been bloodier and messier than its defenders would like the world to believe, and systematic destruction and relocation of communities are part and parcel of the oil project. People in the areas around the militarised oil installations and the pipeline route have been subjected to devastating attacks by government forces for years. They are being driven from their homes by air-raids and bombardment, and by militias supported by the government, resulting in horrendous suffering.

The government of Sudan has called the oil "a sacred gift to the faithful"

A huge country of vast semi-desert expanses and intense heat, Sudan is said to have oil reserves of anything from 600 million barrels to 3 billion. It also has minerals, gold, uranium, and vast expanses of arable land. Tempting, perhaps. The government of Sudan has called the oil "a sacred gift to the faithful". Its would-be partners in the oil project - companies from Canada, China and Malaysia, Austria, Sweden and France - seem to think likewise, as do the suppliers of oil pipeline equipment from Britain and Germany, and the oil traders from Netherlands and Japan. But when it comes to making use of this asset, it is not only the sheer immensity of the terrain that brings with it a host of complications.

The former UN Human Rights Rapporteur who worked on Sudan for years, Dr Gaspar Biro, has commented that if the oil companies don't know what is going on, they're not looking over the fences of their compounds.

Nonetheless, along with Canada, China and Malaysia, European countries are increasingly involved in oil project. They are ignoring the role it plays in the conflict and instead casting it in a favourable light. And the European Union seems to be doing the same.
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The regime has repeatedly denied permission for humanitarian flights to aid the most afflicted populations, dropped cluster bombs on clearly civilian targets, and repeatedly bombed clearly-marked civilian hospitals.

Throughout the 1990s, Sudan's NIF government has been using the prospect of oil for maximum propaganda value, a vital part of its efforts to get rid of its international "human rights and terrorism pariah" status and attract foreign investment into its war-devastated economy. The growing involvement of Canadian and European companies has begun to lend it a much-needed, but unwarranted, appearance of respectability.

As Aung San Suu Kyi said of UK's Premier Oil in Burma: "Apart from the actual revenues that it brings to the government, it also constitutes a psychological boost because it makes the government feel that, however repressive they may be, they still have the support of big companies. And if those countries are from Western democracies, it's even more serious because it gives the military regime the chance to say: 'Look, even companies from Western democracies support us, so what we are doing can't be that wrong. Why are the democratic forces making such a fuss?'" (Mark Thomas / Channel 4 TV, October 1999)
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Above all, the National Islamic Front government desperately needs the revenue from the oil project to strengthen its grip on the country.

Despite its constant use of the word "Popular" in its slogans, the NIF itself is extremely unpopular. In the 1986 general elections its members won less than ten per cent of the vote; it staged a coup in 1989 to abort a peace process, and it would lose disastrously if free elections were held now. But it has held on to power for a decade on which it has made its mark by its readiness to deny charges of systematic and gross human rights abuse, claiming persecution by the outside world for its "Islamic orientation".

In practice this has amounted to religiously-infused totalitarianism, feared and despised by the predominantly Muslim community in northern Sudan, nearly as much as by the people of the generally non-Muslim south. Its encouragement of violent militancy has spread beyond Sudan's borders and is a source of alarm to its neighbours in the Horn of Africa.
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Further reading:

Aug 2: World Food Programme is starting to airdrop food in remote parts of Darfur. Refugees are receiving the food sacks dropped by WFP. WFP (a UN body) is airlifting food to the "most inaccessible" parts of Sudan's western Darfur region for the first time. It says the food will assist more than 70,000 people who have been cut off from other help because of the rainy season and insecurity. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which says it distributed food to 20,000 Darfurians earlier this month, says persisting pockets of fighting and attacks have made access to people in the region difficult.

Aug 2: World must double food aid to Sudan warns head of MSF, today.

Aug 2: Sudan's Army says the UN resolution on the conflict in Darfur is 'a declaration of war' and threatens to fight any foreign intervention.

Aug 2:: US State Department says: "There is no excuse for Sudan not taking action now. The Security Council calls for action now. And that's what we want to see. And we will evaluate the situation again in 30 days."

Aug 2 report on Sudan's military situation: military experts in Britain say Sudanese Armed Forces are conscript-dependent and poorly equipped."

Aug 2: post by Black Looks on Playing Politics in Darfur

July 24: Booker Rising writes: "Mustafa Osman Ismail Sudan's foreign minister (pictured above) rejects a U.S. Congressional declaration that atrocities in its western Darfur region amounts to genocide. He insists that his government is doing everything it can to end the conflict, which has killed 30,000 people and forced a million to flee. He accuses global concern as "actually a targeting of the Islamic state in Sudan." Let's see. 2 million folks have died since 1983, at the government's hand. 400+ black villages burned down. Slavery. Government-backed Arab militias conduct mass rape campaigns against black women, knowing that ethnicity in the region is traced through the father. Yep, genocide."

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 8/03/2004
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