Catholic Bishops of Sudan on Oil Development, September 7, 2001
Eric Reeves | September 7, 2001 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-md
The Catholic Bishops of Sudan have now lent their powerful voices to the still-growing chorus of those condemning oil development in Sudan. They make fully clear the role of oil in sustaining and exacerbating catastrophic civil war, and thus provide a sobering context for yesterday’s hoopla in Washington over former Senator John Danforth’s nomination as Special Envoy for Sudan. This important step by the Bush administration should obscure none of the basic realities: war in Sudan continues unabated, as Khartoum pursues military victory with oil revenues; expanding oil development is devastating the south (and as a consequence, the military threat to the facilities and personnel of the oil companies remains at an extremely high level). The urgency of a policy response to the realities of oil development could not be greater.
The Catholic Bishops have very recently released a statement on oil development in Sudan, declaring unambiguously that:
“In Sudan, the [foreign oil] companies are profiting from gross and systematic violations of human rights. They are complicit as they accept the protection of regular troops and militia who commit human rights abuses with impunity.”
The Bishops also declared that civil war in Sudan has intensified in the last three years because of oil revenues going to the Khartoum regime (see Reuters report of September 6; attached below).
These ugly and obstinate realities now confront Special Envoy Danforth, and they will either be addressed directly or peace will not come to Sudan. US capital market sanctions against the oil companies operating in Sudan would give Senator Danforth enormous leverage in dealing with the recalcitrant Khartoum regime. Khartoum would be put on notice that either they negotiate peace in good faith immediately, or two of their key oil partners—Talisman Energy and China National Petroleum Corp.—will experience devastating and unsustainable capital market losses. Indeed, Talisman management has already been fully explicit in declaring that they would abandon their Sudan stake rather than loose access to US capital markets.
Without capital market sanctions as a means of pressuring Khartoum, it is difficult to see what other measures Senator Danforth will have in moving the regime out of its longstanding posture of recalcitrance—what will make people like President Beshir, Vice-President Taha, and Foreign Minister Ismail negotiate the key issues of southern self-determination and separation of state and religion. These have long been the key points of contention in negotiations. But flush with oil revenues, emboldened by the “legitimacy” offered by Canadian, Swedish, and Asian corporate presence, Khartoum refuses to address the issues in a constructive way. They must be pressured to do so.
“Sudan Bishops Accuse Oil Companies of Fueling War”
September 6, 2001, Filed at 9:56 a.m. ET
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Sudan’s Catholic Bishops accused foreign oil companies on Thursday of complicity in brutal human rights abuses committed by the Khartoum government during the country’s civil war.
In a statement released at the end of their week-long annual plenary meeting in Kenya, the bishops said the war had intensified in the last three years, thanks in part to the government’s profits from oil exports.
“In Sudan, the companies are profiting from gross and systematic violations of human rights,” they said. “They are complicit as they accept the protection of regular troops and militia who commit human rights abuses with impunity.”
The bishops accused the government of displacing civilians en masse in the south of the country to make way for oil exploration, a charge which has also been made by international human rights groups and some aid agencies.
“We witness displacement of our flocks from their homelands, driven away by helicopter gunships, Antonov bombers and government troops and militias in order for oil companies to work in relative security,” they said.
Sudan’s 18-year civil war pits the mainly Christian and animist south against the Muslim, Arab north and has cost an estimated two million lives through conflict and famine.
Foreign oil companies defend their presence in Sudan, saying they have seen no evidence of mass displacement of civilians and that they have helped to finance development in the areas in which they work.
But Sudan’s bishops said the proceeds from oil exports were not benefiting ordinary people.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which is fighting for autonomy in southern Sudan, says it considers foreign oil companies legitimate targets, and last month attacked the Heglig facilities in an attempt to shut down oil operations.
The bishops asked other episcopal conferences around the world to appeal to their governments, oil companies, banks and other enterprises to refrain from doing businesses with Sudan’s oil industry before peace is reached.