The report of John Danforth, US special envoy to Sudan, has only just been delivered to President Bush; but the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum has wasted no time in emphatically rejecting the proposed plan for sharing oil revenues that Danforth highlights. This is hardly surprising, indeed was to be expected. What is notable is how quickly, bluntly, and unambiguously Khartoum has rejected what turns out to be the key proposal for the peace process in the Danforth report (see May 1, 2002 Agence France-Presse report below). Danforth is cited by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (April 28, 2002) as saying his ambition in proposing oil revenue-sharing was to “get people thinking about what peace would look like and how it could improve the lives of people.” Khartoum has “looked,” and decided that peace—a just peace—is not what they wish. The goal remains genocidal victory in the oil wars in southern Sudan.
Eric Reeves [May 2, 2002]
Northampton, MA 01063
First Vice-President of the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime, Ali Osman Taha, has declared the Danforth proposal on oil revenues dead on arrival:
“The petroleum is a national wealth owned by the Sudanese people and cannot be an object of compromise.” (Agence France-Presse, May 1, 2002)
Since Taha is likely the most powerful person in the NIF regime, this can be taken as an authoritative statement. Of course, when Taha speaks of the “Sudanese people,” he means the “Sudanese people” who hold power in the regime. The deeply racist attitudes of the NIF towards the southern populations insure that they are not included in the phrase “Sudanese people.”
The south, which has been denied all benefits of oil revenues, is certainly not envisioned as sharing the “national wealth” Taha speaks of. It is notable that Khartoum has also bluntly refused a request from UN Special Rapporteur Gerhart Baum to examine records for use of oil revenues (especially records bearing on Khartoum’s absurd claim that oil revenues benefit the south). A complete lack of transparency remains a defining feature of Khartoum’s expenditure of oil revenues.
Indeed, even were there an expedient desire on the part of Khartoum to share oil revenues, the regime is simply unable to do so, given its present massive military expenditures. One of the signal weaknesses of the Danforth proposal (as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, whose Washington reporter has had access to the parts of the report dealing with oil revenues) is that it takes no account of the budgetary realities that confront Khartoum in waging a war that costs well over a million dollars a day. Moreover, the regime not only continues to wage this hugely expensive war—despite spectacularly massive and costly indebtedness—but also continues to purchase advanced military hardware with anticipated oil revenues. Given these fully committed expenditures, there are simply no oil revenues left to share.
Danforth speaks vaguely of more investment in Sudanese oil development, and thus more oil revenues, if peace comes—i.e., a bigger “pie” to divide. This may be fine in theory, detached from inconvenient military, political, and economic realities. But these realities define Khartoum’s thinking. It is waging a savage war against civilians and civilian life in the oil regions of the south, one that all reports from the region indicate is dramatically accelerating
Such a war is immensely expensive. Khartoum’s direct military expenditures easily exceed $1 million per day. Additional resources (i.e., oil revenues) are devoted to ongoing construction of military production facilities (often, as at the giant GIAD complex outside Khartoum, of dual commercial/military use), and to the acquisition of highly advanced military hardware.
The bill hasn’t been calculated for purchases made by the NIF defense minister on his recent spending spree in Russia. But the twelve MiG-29s apparently highest on the list could alone cost well over $200 million, depending on configuration and other peripheral costs. (A recent Russian arms transfer to Yemen offers a useful financial yardstick here.) There was also clearly interest in purchasing more Russian armored vehicles, as well as helicopter gunships, Khartoum’s weapon of choice in attacking civilians. The total costs could approach $400 million.
Revenue sharing is simply not on the agenda for Khartoum. If Danforth and his assistant Robert Oakley think that they have made a useful contribution in simply proposing such a division of oil wealth, imagining that Khartoum will self-interestedly participate, they are woefully mistaken. Or perhaps they are expediently offering an idea they know has no chance of succeeding simply to make a face-saving gesture for their mission. But such a gesture is no substitute for a truly realistic view of what it will take to bring the Khartoum regime to negotiate a just peace in good faith.
The international community, led by the US, must demand a suspension of oil development pending a just peace. Alternatively, the international community can work simultaneously for a cease-fire and the creation of a trust fund for Sudan’s oil revenues, along the lines recommended by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in its April 29, 2002 release:
“The Commission recommended that any comprehensive cease-fire in Sudan be conditioned on placing the country’s oil revenues in an internationally administered trust fund to be expended solely for developmental and humanitarian purposes on an equitable basis in both the north and the south. ‘A cease-fire without such an arrangement will make the regime far less likely to engage in good-faith bargaining over power-sharing,’ [USCIRF] Chairman Young said.”
It is overpoweringly urgent that the international community respond in decisive fashion to clear and present realities in southern Sudan. Khartoum’s ambition is to crush all southern opposition, not to share revenues with that opposition. As part of this ambition, the regime wants to destroy the civilian populations living in or near the oil concession areas throughout the south. The goal has nothing to do with sharing, but everything to do with expanding oil production in order to increase revenues, and to make possible even greater military purchases. Ultimately, military power translates into political power for a NIF regime that is relentlessly survivalist by instinct.
We should make no mistake on this critical issue, for there is a ghastly strategic logic to Khartoum’s conduct of the war and its efforts to extract oil and expand control of the southern oil regions. The Danforth proposal seems perversely ignorant of this logic, preferring instead its unrealistically optimistic “greater pie” theory of how to bring peace. This is clearly inadequate.
That Khartoum would reject so abruptly and unambiguously this key proposal by Danforth/Oakley should signal to the US just how confident the regime is in its present genocidal efforts—and how far short of confronting these realities the Danforth report is.
Those who care about a just peace in Sudan must hope that the State Department will fashion a realistic policy towards Sudan—one that works to create both an effective and widely supported peace process, but also the necessary pressure on Khartoum to engage in that process.
Agence France-Presse, May 1, 2002
“Sudan government rules out sharing oil revenues with SPLA”
KHARTOUM, May 1 (AFP) — The Sudanese government rejected a reported plan for sharing oil revenues with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), First Vice President Ali Osman Taha
told reporters Wednesday.
“The petroleum is a national wealth owned by the Sudanese people and cannot be an object of compromise,” he said.
He said the notion of dividing the oil revenues between the government and the SPLA was made by some circles he did not name which, he said,
“wanted to create a situation similar to the one prevailing in Iraq where the oil proceeds can be disposed of only on consent by the two parties.”
However, Taha promised to grant southern Sudan “a special status in the oil revenues for improving services and achieving stability there.”
The First Vice President was responding to a press report Tuesday carried by local newspapers quoting an American newspaper called St. Louis Post
Dispatch saying that US envoy John Danforth submitted the idea to US President George W. Bush.
The Dispatch was also quoted as reporting that Danforth has proposed to expand the current ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains to include the oil-rich areas in southern Sudan.
Danforth suggested in his report that Khartoum government and the SPLA split the oil revenues amongst themselves provided that the SPLA refrain from threatening the petroleum fields and installations and the two sides agree on setting up an international monitoring mechanism.
The US envoy was quoted as saying in his report to Bush that if peace holds, oil investments by foreign companies would increase, thus raising the petroleum revenues for both parties.