“Khartoum May End Role of the UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan”
Largely lost amidst the reporting on Khartoum’s withdrawal from the Machakos peace talks is the regime’s increasingly threatening behavior toward the mission of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Sudan, Gerhart Baum. The National Islamic Front has two quarrels with Baum: his forthrightness in criticizing the regime’s appalling human rights record, and his determination to bring about some transparency in financial reporting on oil revenues. The latter issue is especially troubling for Khartoum, both because oil revenues are the means by which military hardware is obtained for ongoing genocidal destruction in the oil regions of southern Sudan, and because senior members of the National Islamic Front are clearly diverting oil revenues for their own uses. Special Rapporteur Baum continues the impressive record of his predecessors (Gaspar Biro of Hungary and Leonardo Franco of Argentina) in reporting on human rights in Sudan. His mission should be supported vigorously by the UN and the international community.
Eric Reeves [September 10, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
For almost a year now, Gerhart Baum of Germany, UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Sudan, has been making public his findings about the consequences of oil development in Sudan. These findings comport all too well with the findings of his distinguished predecessors, Gaspar Biro of Hungary and Leonardo Franco of Argentina (as well as with the findings of numerous human rights organizations and assessments). Indeed, Biro was so forthright as Special Rapporteur in revealing the scale of human destruction associated with Khartoum’s oil development efforts that the regime worked relentlessly to compromise and contain his research and investigative efforts. In the end, the regime successfully engineered his replacement by Franco.
But Franco also spoke powerfully of what he called a growing “swath of scorched/earth cleared territory” in the oil regions. Indeed, in his October 1999 report on Sudan (“Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan”), Franco made the following points about oil development:
 “The economic, political and strategic implications of the oil issue have seriously compounded and exacerbated the conflict and led to a deterioration of the overall situation of human rights and the respect for humanitarian law, as well as further diminishing the already slim chances for peace.”
 “The oil issue and the extremely volatile situation prevailing in Western Upper Nile are clearly at the core of the armed conflict in Sudan and have particularly dire consequences for peace.”
 [Reports available to the Special Rapporteur indicate that] “long-term efforts by the various Governments of Sudan to protect oil production have included a policy of forcible population displacement in order to clear oil-producing areas and the transportation routes of southern civilians.”
For his part, Gerhart Baum declared almost a year ago that oil development “has led to a worsening of the conflict, which has also turned into a war for oil” (Reuters, October 10, 2001). This central conclusion has been repeated and amplified a number of times by Baum in the interim.
But just as disturbing to Khartoum is Baum’s insistence on some sort of honest accounting for oil revenue expenditures. Last week Agence France-Presse reported that, “a Sudanese government body on Tuesday rejected a visit later this month by UN Human Rights Rapporteur Gerhard Baum to protest his reported request for details on how Khartoum spends its oil revenues” (AFP, Sept 3, 2002).
Why is Khartoum so concerned about such a request? Why is the UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan being denied access to the country by the National Islamic Front regime because he wants a true account of how oil revenues are being spent? There are two answers.
First, anything like a true account would reveal the massive scale on which oil revenues are being used for military purchases. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been absurdly accepting of Khartoum’s account of its revenues and expenditures. Special Rapporteur Baum, fully aware of the immensely destructive consequences of Khartoum’s new military hardware—especially helicopter gunships—wants a fuller, more revealing account. And this Khartoum cannot provide without revealing just how grotesquely expensive the war has become, and how skewed the regime’s budgetary priorities are. For example, the agricultural sector is undercapitalized and the huge international debt overhang ($21 billion) will ultimately bring about an economic implosion. And yet Khartoum is still spending money on highly advanced Russian MiG-29s fighter aircraft.
Second, and just as important, is the degree to which transparency about oil revenues would reveal institutional corruption on the part of senior members of the NIF. Energy Minister Awad al-Jaz in particular stands to lose tremendous revenue clout and patronage leverage if Baum secures anything like a real accounting of oil revenues. The NIF as a whole will lose an ability to fund various forms of proxy support in the war (e.g., various southern militias) and to engineer domestic political “support.” The NIF would also lose its ability to support anonymously various regional terrorist causes, including the maniacal Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda/southern Sudan and the Islamic Jihad in Eritrea. The State Department’s annual report on “Patterns of Global Terrorism” further notes Khartoum’s continuing domestic support for “al-Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and HAMAS” (from the State Department’s report on “Patterns of Global Terrorism,” May 21, 2002).
All this raises very serious questions about Khartoum’s ability to negotiate a just peace at Machakos. For the levels of military expenditures have been so high that it is exceedingly difficult to resist the conclusion that Khartoum has been spending against anticipated revenues, perhaps even anticipated from concessions not yet producing (e.g., that of Lundin Petroleum [Sweden], OMV [Austria], and Petronas [Malaysia] in Block 5a). Revenues that have already been expended can’t very well be shared.
At the same time there is also the built-in resistance of officials like al-Jaz, who will be loathe to see transparency and thus an end to the institutional corruption that derives from the opacity of present oil revenue accounting. Before the peace process at Machakos can succeed—even if we make the very large assumption that Khartoum will resume the process in anything like good faith—there must be a plan for fair and equitable oil revenue-sharing. But of course such a plan depends completely upon genuine transparency.
Khartoum’s decision to deny UN Special Rapporteur Baum entry into Sudan because of his demand for such transparency does not augur well for peace. The UN and the international community should insist that he be allowed access to the country he has been assigned to report on.