Oil revenues flowing to the Khartoum regime have now enabled the purchase of highly advanced combat aircraft from Russia. As many as a dozen MiG-29’s, one of the most potent fighter jets in the world today, will be shipped to Khartoum in an export deal recently concluded between the National Islamic Front regime and Russia’s RSK MiG, according to a report in the Moscow Times (December 25, 2001). Cited in the account is Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, an independent defense institute. He reports that as many as twelve MiG-29s could soon be delivered to Sudan. This represents an expenditure of approximately $400 million by one of the most indebted nations in the world. The combat aircraft will be used for military purposes that certainly entail continued oil-related destruction in southern Sudan.
Eric Reeves [December 26, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
Oil revenues supplied to Khartoum by Talisman Energy (Canada), Petronas (Malaysia), China National Petroleum Corp., have for several years permitted a vast increase in military expenditures by the National Islamic Front regime. Indeed, even before oil revenues came on line in 1999, anticipated oil revenues were used by Khartoum to make very substantial military purchases. Moreover, prominent members of the National Islamic Front boasted publicly of their military ambitions for these new revenues. Such public pronouncements on the military use of oil revenues have continued.
In addition to foreign military acquisitions, especially from China, Khartoum has used oil revenues to build large-scale military production facilities that have now enabled the regime to become largely self-sufficient in small- and medium-sized armaments. There are presently plans to build production facilities for tanks and larger weapons systems as well.
But the military escalation began in earnest several years ago with the purchase of deadly Russian Mi-24 HIND helicopter gunships. These weapons were quickly directed to the task of crushing southern resistance and aiding in the scorched-earth warfare that has been used to secure the oil regions for international oil companies. Helicopter gunships have continued to use oil company airstrips for many of their offensive of missions against southern civilians in the oil concession areas.
(Use of these military aircraft against civilians and civilian targets in the oil regions has been authoritatively documented by Amnesty International, Christian Aid [UK], the Harker Report for the Canadian Foreign Ministry, Human Rights Watch, the very recent and superbly researched report by Georgette Gagnon [Canada] and John Ryle [UK], “Report of an Investigation into Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western Upper Nile, Sudan,” October 2001, and humanitarian personnel working in southern Sudan.)
Now, the stakes have been raised again. The MiG-29 is a front-line military aircraft, still a mainstay of the Russian air force, and comparable in many respects to the most advanced aircraft in the world. The MiG-29 comes in many configurations, and the report in the Moscow Times (December 25, 2001; attached) gives no details. But the deal with Khartoum is compared with an earlier, widely reported deal with Yemen in which RSK MiG is set to deliver fourteen MiG-29s fighter jets, worth $437 million. A deal with Sudan was confirmed by Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Russian government’s Committee on Military and Technical Cooperation with Foreign Countries.
Though the MiG-29 is designed primarily for air-to-air combat, it has formidable air-to-ground capabilities. Depending upon the configuration of the jets actually purchased by Khartoum, these aircraft could be used with immensely deadly and destructive effect in southern Sudan. They would likely be operationally deployed from El Obeid air base, the southernmost military air base that can be readily used by the Khartoum regime. (All military aviation fuel for El Obeid is supplied by a nearby 10,000 barrel/day refinery that receives its entire crude oil supply from Talisman, Petronas, and China National Petroleum Corp.)
As is the case with the HIND helicopter gunships, there is nothing in the arsenal of the southern resistance that can respond to military attacks by MiG-29’s. These fearsome new weapons will undoubtedly be used to attack with impunity the same targets presently preferred by Khartoum: noncombatant civilians, villages in the oil regions, refugees, herds of cattle, and humanitarian relief. This has been true of the Antonov bombers (actually retrofitted cargo planes), of the HIND helicopter gunships, and of the surface-to-surface missiles reported earlier this year as having been deployed by Khartoum in the eastern regions of southern Sudan (vide The Guardian [UK], August 14, 2001).
The international oil companies involved in oil development in southern Sudan (including also Sweden’s Lundin Petroleum and Austria’s OMV) have maintained that their presence is beneficial for all Sudanese. They conveniently overlook the numerous human rights reports, from many sources, on the scorched-earth warfare that serves as their security in the southern oil regions. They also ignore the devastating impact their presence has had on the humanitarian relief efforts in the oil regions.
These companies inevitably defend themselves by arguing that they are “constructively engaged” in the country. What Khartoum’s viciously extravagant purchase of MiG-29’s shows is that this is absurdly disingenuous.
Despite large new oil revenues, Sudan remains one of the world’s most indebted nations, in desperate need of agricultural investment in particular. Instead of making this investment, however, the National Islamic Front has purchased highly advanced combat aircraft for an amount equivalent to as much as two thirds of this year’s oil revenues. Instead of investing in economic development, Khartoum is investing in the means to effect a final military solution to their “southern problem.” Whichever way the deal is financed with Russia (certainly involving oil concession rights), the capital that should be helping to build the country, and reconstruct the south, is being poured profligately into the purchase of exceedingly expensive military hardware.
This is an obscene misappropriation of national wealth, and one that promises to make the world’s most destructive civil conflict even more destructive. Unfortunately, such a highly disturbing new development in military acquisition is nothing but a continuation of what has been predicted and traced for the past several years. (An excellent compendium on arms transfers to Sudan just prior to oil export, prepared by Human Rights Watch, is available at www.hrw.org; the report is dated August 1998.)
The oil companies that have made such increased destruction possible
are—along with their sponsoring countries—fully complicit in this terrible reality. Moreover, as long as the Khartoum regime believes that it can continue to use oil revenues to shift the military balance of power in its favor, it will not negotiate a just peace with the people of the south. The failure to date of the US special envoy for Sudan, former Senator John Danforth, to take this reality seriously does not augur well for US efforts to move the peace process forward.
News Article by MT posted on December 25, 2001 at 07:49:57: EST (-5 GMT)
MiG Corp. Sells Fighters to Sudan
The Moscow Times, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2001
Russian Aircraft Corp. MiG has clinched an export deal with Sudan, a senior defense industry official said Monday.
Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Committee on Military and Technical Cooperation with Foreign Countries, told reporters that RSK MiG had recently signed deals to deliver jets to Sudan and Yemen, but wouldn’t elaborate on the number of jets. In September, it was widely reported in the media that MiG had agreed to deliver 14 MiG-29s fighter jets to Yemen for $437 million. On Friday, MiG chief Nikolai Nikitin said that a fighter deal was signed Dec. 15 but wouldn’t elaborate.
Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, an independent defense think tank, said that as many as 12 MiG-29s could be delivered to Sudan.
RSK MiG wouldn’t comment on either of the deals Monday. According to the company, it signed some $1 billion worth of contracts this year, including orders for 36 jets.