The most authoritative, detailed, and fully-researched account of oil development in southern Sudan was released last week by Christian Aid (UK). It is a savage indictment of Talisman Energy, Lundin Oil, Petronas (Malaysia), China National Petroleum Corp., as well as other Western corporations actively supporting the oil-driven destruction of Sudan. It makes fully clear the vast—and widening—extent of scorched-earth warfare in the south. Indeed, its title is all too telling: “The Scorched Earth: Oil and War in Sudan.”
Eric Reeves [March 20, 2001]
Northampton, MA 010631
The massive, brutal, obscenely cruel consequences of oil development in Sudan are laid out with an authority and evidentiary quality unrivalled by the many previous reports on the subject. Though it fully comports with the findings of the UN Special Rapporteurs, Amnesty International, the Harker Report to the Canadian Foreign Ministry, and other on-the-ground reporting, Christian Aid offers much more detail, much more first-hand reporting, and much more current information. It is thus in a position to draw the most devastating conclusions about what oil development has wrought, is presently wreaking—and the ghastly future it portends for the people of southern Sudan.
Christian Aid has been active in Sudan for almost 30 years and works with 24 partners in both the north and south of the country. Their report draws not only on previous reporting, but on the first-hand knowledge of aid workers, the UN’s World Food Program and UNICEF, officials of Operation Lifeline Sudan (the UN-sponsored consortium of aid agencies), village chiefs, ordinary people caught up in the scorched-earth campaign, the former governor of Unity State (area of the Greater Nile Petroleum Operation Company, comprised of Talisman Energy, Petronas, and China National Petroleum Corp.), and many others.
The authority, accuracy, and comprehensiveness of their account are simply beyond dispute.
What has Christian Aid found? It is an extensive study, running to quite a number of very full pages. But there are some key findings that must be highlighted, some moments of piercing individual suffering and loss that must shock any who will only read, and some larger conclusions that have become inescapable. Herewith a preliminary effort of distillation.
 Recommendations: Deriving from extensive and authoritatively documented research efforts, the recommendations of the Christian Aid report deserve the most urgent attention of governments seeking peace for Sudan, and from shareholders in the oil corporations whose activities are now doing so much to obstruct a just peace for Sudan:
“Oil companies directly involved in Sudan, such as Talisman Energy and Lundin Oil, should immediately suspend operations until there is a just and lasting peace agreement.”
“BP [Amoco], Shell and other foreign and institutional investors in Sinopec and PetroChina, two subsidiaries of China National Petroleum Corp., should divest their holdings.
“Companies such as TotalFinaElf, which own concessions in Sudan but are not yet operational, and those which have invested in the Sudanese oil industry, should refuse to take any further steps to begin operations or supply equipment until a peace agreement is reached.”
Just as significantly, “shareholders, pension funds and other institutional investors” are encouraged to “consider divestment from [these companies] if there is no compliance [with the above recommendations] by the time of the companies’ Annual General Meetings.”
 What has prompted these decisive recommendations? A signal example: Christian Aid details the fighting in 2000 south of Bentiu (epicenter of the oil development in western Upper Nile Province), fighting that enabled the construction of an elevated, all-season road running 75 kilometers south to Lundin’s Thar Jath well site.
What were Khartoum’s military tactics? Brutally simple: “Government [of Sudan] troops and militias had burned and depopulated the entire length of this oil road.”
Christian Aid quotes Chief Peter Ring Pathai as saying that “government troops airlifted to Kuach were shooting at villagers from the air, hanging out of the doors of their helicopters.”
Christian Aid quotes John Wicjial Bayak, a local official who had been driven from a village close to the oil road: “You cannot see a single hut. The government doesn’t want people anywhere near the oil.”
Christian Aid quotes aid workers, who have flown over the oil road, as confirming these claims: “As one flies along the new oil road, the only signs of life are the lorries travelling at high speed back and forth to the oil field.”
Citing the reports of village chiefs, Christian Aid continues: “systematic attacks on the villages along the oil road began in March 2000, the month Lundin Oil suspended drilling. First, Antonovs would bomb the villages to scatter people, then government troops would come into the village by truck and helicopter to burn huts and kill any people who had stayed. One village was bombed ten times before government troops finally burned out residents.”
And what happens to the people who are displaced by this scorched earth warfare? Christian Aid offers one grim example:
“An estimated 11,000 people displace from Block 5a by the above attacks [i.e., the attacks clearing the oil road south of Bentiu] settled in the SPLA-controlled village of Nhialdiu. The village was already swollen by Nuers who had been driven south from the Heglig area in earlier years [Heglig is the site of oil development by Talisman Energy and its Greater Nile partners]. Then on 15 July 2000, government militias attacked Nhialdiu—burning every hut bar one and displacing every inhabitant. A local chief, John Lou, said that the militias rounded up the elderly, put them in one hut and burned them alive. He said some of the dead were also very young children—five of them his own children.”
This is the savagery Talisman Energy, Lundin Oil, Petronas (Malaysia), and China National Petroleum Corp. are willing to countenance in the name of corporate “security.” Children are murdered and elderly people are burned alive in their tukuls.
 Christian Aid made extensive efforts to communicate with Talisman Energy and Lundin Oil management. Their report reveals a shocking disingenuous and callousness on the part of these companies—a willful ignoring of the realities that are readily apparent, were they only to look with any interest in finding the truth about their presence in southern Sudan.
Clearly, Talisman, Lundin, Petronas, China National Petroleum Corp. and other investors in Sudan’s oil development projects are interested in profits, not truth—no matter how brutally destructive and cruel that truth.
[Part 1 of 3]