AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ON OIL DEVELOPMENT IN SUDAN
Amnesty International released today their much-anticipated study of oil development in Sudan: “Sudan: the Human Price of Oil.”
Eric Reeves [May 3, 2000]
Smith College firstname.lastname@example.org
Northampton, MA 01063
The report is an austere but savage indictment of Western complicity in the oil-driven destruction of Sudan. It is ambitiously researched, unambiguous in its findings, compellingly presented—and the occasion for moral revulsion on the part of all who will only see what is presented so clearly.
The report is, in its own words, “an effort to make clear the link between the massive human rights violations by the security forces of the Government of Sudan and various government allied militias, and the oil operations of foreign companies.”
Further, it makes clear Amnesty International’s belief that “many foreign companies tolerate violations by turning a blind eye to the human rights violations committed by the government security forces or government-allied troops in the name of protecting the security of the oil-producing areas.” And in the same vein: “By turning a blind eye, in the name of security, to the violations committed by government forces and troops allied to them, [the oil companies] indirectly contribute to violations continuing. The silence of powerful oil companies in the face of injustice and human rights violations can not be seen as neutral.”
Indeed, Amnesty International (AI) goes even further, declaring that in Sudan the oil companies have “become in effect beneficiaries of a conflict in which human rights are violated.” There is a full, detailed, unassailably researched account of the massive civilian populations displacements and the ferocious scorched-earth warfare that have served the security needs of the oil companies.
The AI report also points up the connection between oil revenues flowing to the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the government’s ability to buy additional armaments for the prosecution of the war.
And in one of its most telling conclusions, AI declares that: “Silence on the part of [oil] companies implies a tolerance of human rights violations and fosters a climate of impunity.”
So great is the complicity established by Amnesty International between oil development and the slaughter and displacement of civilians that the question is no longer whether there is complicity, but rather: what should the civilized world do about corporations that so transparently ignore the human cost of oil extraction?
Though unable by virtue of its mandate and charter to endorse economic measures such as shareholder divestment or boycott, the AI report leaves little room for doubt that such economic measures will be the only effective remedy.
Such a conclusion might be illustrated by looking at the portrait of Canada’s Talisman Energy, one of the three foreign partners in Sudan’s Greater Nile Petroleum Operating company (GNPOC). What emerges is a picture of corporate intransigence, a refusal to accept the consequences of oil development in Sudan, and a dependence on GOS security that has clearly had direct and disastrous effects for tens of thousands of civilians of Western Upper Nile.
Indeed, the very first issue in the report footnoted concerns the refusal of Jim Buckee, President and CEO of Talisman Energy, to acknowledge even the presence of a local population in the oil regions: “The oil companies involved in Sudan [here Talisman is explicitly cited in a footnote] frequently assert that there are no settlements in the oil-rich areas and that allegations of mass displacement are therefore inaccurate. This is clearly not so.”
Talisman management, in the form of Mr. Buckee’s denial of what is transparently the case, stands revealed as the emblem of corporate disingenuousness, callousness—indeed, moral vacuity.
The report goes on to discuss Talisman Energy’s security arrangements with the GOS. “Talisman Energy requested the state apparatus to ensure law and order. To fulfill this request the government has used the military—reportedly trained by a private military and security company, government-supplied armed militias, and the government’s PDF [Popular Defense Forces] to provide the company with appropriate protection.”
As the report makes abundantly clear, “appropriate protection” entails massive destruction of civilians in the oil development area. Talisman Energy secures its profits in Sudan only by means of constant bloodshed and forced displacement. The destruction of crops and of the means of livelihood in the areas “cleansed” for security insures that civilians cannot return, and may very well face starvation.
No Western corporation operating in Sudan does so as part of the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company. And none does so with greater complicity than Talisman energy in the enormous human suffering and destruction that Amnesty International has chronicled so fully.
Continued operation by Talisman Energy in Sudan insures the continued loss of innocent human life—men, women, and children. This is the inescapable conclusion that must be faced by all who are themselves the owners of Talisman Energy through their shareholding in the corporation.