Today’s press release by the SPLA/M (Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement) provides important additional details about the attack on oil installations at Heglig, epicenter of operations for the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, of which Canada’s Talisman Energy is a 25% partner. Meanwhile, Talisman has offered nothing more than what was contained in a release of yesterday, described in one news report as “terse.” In fact, Talisman would not allow its spokesperson to identify her/himself in reading a very brief and carefully scripted statement over the phone. The contrast between the SPLA eagerness to speak to the nature of the attack, and Talisman’s delayed and reticent response, is telling.
Eric Reeves [August 8, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
The SPLA declares that the attack was made up of “forces of the Western Upper Nile (WUN) Command and special elements from the SPLA General Headquarters” (full press release attached below). This suggests an attacking force of considerable size, and certainly very well equipped. Indeed, given the quite considerable danger of the mission, it is extremely unlikely that the attacking force would have been made up of any but the most highly trained and disciplined SPLA troops. And they would certainly have been heavily armed and prepared to attack the moment they were in position within Heglig.
The SPLA also claims to have “attacked and destroyed the main oil installation at Heglig”; and further, that “the main oil installation building including offices and stores have been badly damaged.” They also indicate that casualty figures will follow.
In order to clarify the situation—for those interested in what actually happened, for shareholders, and for those concerned about Canadian nationals working at Heglig—Talisman Energy should have immediately brought independent news reporters to the scene in order to produce an objective account of this now highly disputed military episode. As things stand, Talisman has issued its “terse”—not to say opaque—account and is saying nothing further. This is three and a half days after the acknowledged attack.
Notably, the SPLA claims also to have attacked, simultaneously, the very significant government garrison at Wangkai (southwest of Bentiu), and to have inflicted heavy casualties and damage. This is further indication of the SPLA’s growing military strength in Western Upper Nile, and the oil regions generally.
Because of Talisman’s lack of action, and their reticence, the news media have been left in the difficult position of trying to make sense of two radically conflicting accounts (leaving aside the comments of the Government of Sudan, which has denied outright even what Talisman has admitted occurred).
Talisman’s prevaricating account of the highly consequential June 8 convoy attack on the Mayom/Wangkai road has been discussed previously by this source. In that case there happened to be an independent journalist to expose Talisman’s cover-up. But it seems doubtful this time that there will be such a fortuitously placed journalist to point out any lies in Talisman’s account. It is thus incumbent upon the Canadian government to demand of Talisman that it allow for independent journalists or investigators to make the trip to Heglig as soon as possible to ascertain who is telling the truth.
PRESS RELEASE/August 8, 2001
SPLA DESTROYS OIL INSTALLATIONS
On Sunday 5th August 2001, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces of the Western Upper Nile (WUN) Command and special elements from the SPLA General Headquarters attacked and destroyed the main oil installation at Heglig. The town of Heglig is the main nerve centre of the Greater Nile Petroleum Company (GNPC). The GNPC is a consortium of four oil companies.
These are Talisman Energy of Canada (25%), Petronas of Malaysia (30%), China National Petroleum Corporation (40%) and the state owned Sudapet Limited (5%). The raid which took place at 6.00am SLT was very successful as the flow of oil has now been disrupted. The main oil installation building including offices and stores have been badly damaged. However, more details including casualties will follow.
While the attack at Heglig was in progress, SPLA forces in the area
simultaneously raided Wangkai government military garrison as well as Bentiu town. In both attacks Government of Sudan (GOS) suffered heavy losses in men and material.
The Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLA/SPLM) Leadership congratulates Commander Peter Gadet, officers, NCOs and men of WUN command as well as Commander Bior Ajang of SPLA Headquarters and all the units under him who took part in the execution of these successful operations.
The attack on Heglig is only the start of the Movements’ effort to stop
exploration, development and export of oil until a final political
settlement of the Sudan conflict is reached. These operations will continue until this objective is achieved.
Finally, the Movement once again takes this opportunity to reiterate its
earlier warning to oil companies that their investments whether in form of installation or otherwise, remain legitimate military target should they
remain in the area. Although the Movement does not target oil personnel, we call upon the oil companies to heed the voice of prudence and seriously consider evacuation as these companies will be solely responsible for any collateral damage.
Dr. Samson L. Kwaje
Commissioner for Information and
Official Spokesman SPLM/SPLA