A Canadian/British human rights assessment mission has today (October 16, 2001) released the most detailed and authoritative report to date on oil development in Sudan [“Report of an Investigation into Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western Upper Nile, Sudan,” October 2001, by Georgette Gagnon (Canada) and John Ryle (United Kingdom)]. It is an extraordinarily detailed and damning indictment of Talisman Energy’s complicity in vast human destruction and suffering in the oil regions of Sudan, and it shreds the Calgary company’s claims in justifying an ongoing presence. The report stands as an unassailable benchmark, reflecting in its 50 dense pages an authoritative synthesis of a wealth of historical, ethnographic, and economic data. It also makes compelling use of very extensive interviews conducted in the region.
Eric Reeves [October 16, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
No previous indictment has been so complete, so detailed, so fully informed by an understanding of the issues defining oil development in Southern Sudan, and Western Upper Nile province in particular (where Talisman Energy and its Greater Nile project partners are concentrated). The conclusions reached by these two expert researchers are simply irrefutable; they also comport exceedingly well with the many previous reports on oil development in the region (by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid, the last three UN Special Rapporteurs for Sudan, the Harker Assessment Mission commissioned by the Canadian Foreign Ministry, and numerous journalists from North America and Europe).
What are the most salient conclusions? It should be said first that the report deserves a close reading in its entirety, and that the lengthy initial summary does a superb job of distilling the essential findings. (The document as a whole is available from this source in “PDF format” [the Summary is available in the form a twelve-page word document].) But an assiduous reader cannot escape noting the following key conclusions:
 “[T]he investigators found that there was an increase in the number of recorded helicopter gunship attacks on settlements in or near [the oil development] area. Some of these gunships have operated from facilities built, maintained and used by the oil consortium [Talisman Energy, China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petronas, and Sudan’s Sudapet]. The attacks are part of what appears to be a renewed Government of Sudan strategy to displace indigenous non-Arab inhabitants from specific rural areas of the oil region in order to clear and secure territory for oil development.”
Helicopter gunship attacks against civilians have been frequently reported by other sources. The Ryle/Gagnon Report (hereafter, “the Report”) confirms, by means of numerous interviews—including interviews with eyewitnesses and with defecting Government of Sudan soldiers—that the facilities of Talisman and its partners continue to be used for massively destructive gunship assaults on innocent men, women, and children. Their well-documented conclusion that there has been “an increase in the number of recorded helicopter gunship attacks” on civilian settlements belies Talisman’s white-washing of this brutal reality in their contrived and disingenuous “Social Responsibility Report.”
 “The new [Government of Sudan military] strategy in Western Upper Nile, this report suggests, is both more violent and more territorially focused, involving coordinated attacks on civilian settlements in which aerial bombardment and raids by helicopter gunships are followed by ground attacks from government-backed militias and government troops. These ground forces burn villages and crops, loot livestock and kill and abduct people—mainly women and children.”
Again, the sources of evidence for this conclusion are multiple, and meticulously assembled. The Report notes in particular:
“Defecting soldiers from the Government of Sudan’s military base at Heglig testified that they had been ordered to participate in ground attacks on non-government controlled settlements around Pariang (a government-controlled garrison town in the [oil] concession). This was part of an attempt to force the inhabitants out of the area. The soldiers said they had been instructed to kill civilians and any persons believed not to be loyal to the government. This, they stated, was for the purpose of securing the oil fields for development.”
As oil development expands, and Khartoum’s control of previously allied regional militia declines, the government military tactics in the oil regions have become even more brutal than in the 1997 to 1999 period. Talisman Energy is certainly aware of these realities, whatever they feel obliged to pretend to their shareholders and a docile Canadian press. This is Canadian corporate complicity in war crimes, indeed complicity in what are unambiguously crimes against humanity.
 “In spite of claims to the contrary in oil company reports, this investigation, while unable to gain access to government-controlled areas of oil development and following numerous enquiries, is not aware of any evidence that significant economic or other benefits from oil development are accruing to indigenous communities in Western Upper Nile. There is no independent verification of claims that the Government of Sudan is using oil revenues to assist the civilian population in Talisman’s concession (or in Southern Sudan in general).”
It is significant that the Government of Sudan relentlessly obstructed Gagnon/Ryle’s access to government-controlled areas of the oil concessions. The regime in Khartoum is all too aware of what stood to be revealed. But the Report is certainly highly credible—given the vast concession areas not under government control and thus accessible to the investigative team—in declaring that there is no “evidence that significant economic or other benefits from oil development are accruing to indigenous communities in Western Upper Nile.” This also reveals just how expedient and disingenuous is Talisman Energy’s purported “Social Responsibility Report,” which attempts to make precisely the claim that the Report refutes.
 “OLS [Operation Lifeline Sudan] access to airstrips in rebel-controlled areas [of Western Upper Nile] has been progressively reduced by government flight denials and by the danger of aerial bombardment from government aircraft. In government-controlled areas (which are supplied by road from the North), access by displaced people to available food relief has also been limited: in April 2001, the United Nations’ World Food Program reported that malnutrition rates in government-controlled Bentiu town were among the highest in South Sudan [Bentiu is the epicenter of the oil regions of Western Upper Nile].”
The activities of oil companies in Southern Sudan are directly contributing to the severe attenuation of humanitarian aid delivery. This means that tens of thousands of human beings are critically at risk from disease and famine conditions.
 “In the present circumstances, oil development and the associated presence of foreign oil companies in Sudan is damaging to the people of the oil areas. For their part, the companies effectively assist the Government of Sudan war effort, thus exacerbating the suffering of the inhabitants of the oil area and making the prospect of peace more unlikely.”
This most significant of conclusions fully belies the claims of Talisman Energy—and the Government of Canada—to be engaged in “constructive engagement” with the Khartoum regime. Nothing could be more destructive than the presence that Georgette Gagnon and John Ryle have authoritatively described in their Report. Not only are Talisman and its partners complicit in scorched-earth warfare that serves as their “security,” and expands their exploration possibilities, but they are instrumental in sustaining a civil conflict which is the longest and most destructive in the world.
That Talisman Energy shareholders, and the Government of Canada, continue to ignore these terrible realities is a moral failure of the first order.
“Report of an Investigation into Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western Upper Nile, Sudan,” October 2001, by Georgette Gagnon (Canada) and John Ryle (United Kingdom) was commissioned by Canadian and British non-governmental organizations, including the Canadian Auto Workers Union, Steelworkers Humanity Fund, The Simons Foundation, United Church of Canada Division of World Outreach, and World Vision Canada. It is available from this source in “PDF format”; the introduction is available as an attachable 12-page word document.
[Part 1 of 3]