How angry are the people of southern Sudan at Canada for allowing Talisman Energy to remain complicit in the oil-destruction of their lives, land and livelihood? Sudanese Bishop Macram Max Gassis, now in Ottawa, gives a blistering answer to that question, as reported in today’s Ottawa Citizen. Bishop Gassis of the Diocese of El Obeid, referring to Khartoum’s savagery in its conduct of the oil war, says “he hopes the wrath of God will fall on Canada’s Talisman Energy for the oil company’s role in the deaths of his people.”
Eric Reeves [May 22, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
This is not a flashing anger, but the deep wrath of a man who has seen the children for whom he feels the profoundest spiritual responsibility bombed mercilessly in schools, in hospitals, in churches, in undefended villages. He has seen the gaunt women with babies he knows will soon die. He knows that the Nuba region of his diocese is under Khartoum’s brutal 10-year siege, and shows no signs of ending, even as tens of thousands of people are only weeks away from starvation.
In fact, an extremely experienced humanitarian aid worker, just back from the Nuba, reported to me yesterday that the only remaining airstrip for humanitarian relief has come under heavy Government artillery attack this past week, ending the last means of aid delivery for those willing to brave Khartoum’s flight ban. This aid worker holds out very little hope for the approximately 50,000 human beings already on the verge of starvation in the Nuba. 50,000 represents five times the total casualty figure for the Kosovo conflict. Their deaths are being deliberately engineered by Khartoum; and yet a Canadian corporation is permitted to continue its lucrative business relationship with the regime that is orchestrating this massive human destruction.
The Bishop knows this, even as he knows that the Nuba region is under siege because of its proximity to the oil pipelines that serve as Talisman’s revenue conduit, the one presently sending hundreds of millions of dollars into Talisman’s coffers and approximately $500 million/year to Khartoum, the other now under construction. He knows that these oil revenues are funding Khartoum’s scorched-earth warfare throughout the oil regions and adjacent areas (eastern and western Upper Nile, southern Blue Nile, eastern Bahr el-Ghazal provinces).
The Bishop’s words are not rhetorical flourishes; they are the expression of the profoundest anger at Canadian indifference to the plight of his people. Though Foreign Minister John Manley seems content to allow Talisman Energy to remain part of this enormous destruction, professing to be without the necessary tools to halt their genocidal complicity, Bishop Gassis understandably wonders whether Sudanese lives—black African lives—really matter to Mr. Manley and other Canadian officials. He wonders how Talisman’s presence in the midst of Africa’s longest and most destructive civil conflict can possibly be justified, especially when a Canadian corporation sends all Sudanese oil revenues to one party in the conflict.
For those who cynically continue to dismiss the unanimous findings of every single credible human rights report on the oil-driven destruction of southern Sudan, for those who mindlessly declare that Talisman’s presence in Sudan is somehow—despite all evidence to the contrary—a force for good, Bishop Gassis’s words should nonetheless give pause. For his anger is the anger of the southern people and their military forces. And having more than held their own against the Khartoum regime’s recent dry-season military campaigns in the oil regions and elsewhere, they are now clearly more determined than ever to attack Talisman’s oil infrastructure, spread widely over the 30,000 square miles of concession blocks. Virtually daily military and logistical reports from the region make clear that there will be a concerted military assault on Talisman.
So for all the Canadian corporate and governmental indifference to Sudan’s agony, Canadians looking ahead to the military activities of the next two months should expect a similar indifference from the armed forces of the people of southern Sudan when Canadian workers come in the cross-hairs of their weapons. It is exceedingly likely that this upcoming early rainy season campaign will see Canadian nationals coming back in body bags. And for those who wonder why, these angry words of Bishop Macram Max Gassis should be recalled.
The Ottawa Citizen, May 22, 2001 Tuesday FINAL EDITION
HEADLINE: Bishop prays for ‘wrath of God’ on Talisman Energy: Sudanese cleric blames Canadian oil company for killings
by Bob Harvey
A leading Sudanese Catholic bishop says he hopes “the wrath of God” will fall on Canada’s Talisman Energy for the oil company’s role in the deaths of his people.
“They are as much killers as the government of Sudan. They are
idolators, because they think only of the revenue they will get from oil,” said Bishop Macram Max Gassis.
He said the oil revenues produced in Sudan by Talisman and other foreign companies is paying for the weapons, the tanks, the gunships and the bombers that are killing his people in the Nuba Mountains and southern Sudan. “I am an angry bishop because I have seen the horrors of war,” he said.
Bishop Gassis will visit Ottawa today to urge the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious leaders to pressure Talisman and the federal government to halt Canadian involvement in the development of Sudan’s oil fields.
He argues that religion is one of the main causes of a civil war that pits the Muslim-dominated, Arabic-speaking north against the black African, mainly animist or Christian south, where rebels are fighting for autonomy and secular rule. Two million people have died and another four million have been displaced from southern Sudan, and Bishop Gassis said the main reason is the Khartoum government’s determination to turn Sudan into an Arab and Muslim country.
He said the Khartoum government has not allowed a Christian church to be built in Sudan since 1983, prevented Anglicans from worshipping in their cathedral in Khartoum on Easter Day, and bombed him in the Nuba Mountains and another Catholic bishop in eastern Equatoria during Easter week. “They are using religion for their own purposes to gain power and to gain wealth. This is not Islam. Why do good Muslims not stand and say this is not Islam, this is a distortion of our belief?”
Gamal Solaiman, imam of the Ottawa Mosque, said the bombing and other disruption of Christian Easter services “is something to be condemned.” But he said the problems in Sudan were there long before Talisman became involved. “Talisman’s withdrawal will not solve the problem. It may worsen it,” he said.