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Africanews May 2000 - A
AFRICANEWS - News and Views on Africa from Africa
Issue 50 - May 2000
Streams of oil and blood
Massive human rights violations by Sudanese security forces, various
government allied militias and armed opposition groups, are clearly
linked to foreign companies' oil operations.
By John Deng
The quest to control the newly discovered oil resources in the
oil-rich territories in the south of Sudan is the core to the armed
conflict which relentlessly continues to devastate the lives of
countless civilians in the country. This is according to a 22- page
report released on May 3, by the London based human rights group,
According to the report entitled Oil in Sudan Deteriorating Human
Rights, Amnesty says that tens of thousands of people have been
terrorised into leaving their homes in Western Upper Nile since early
1999. For instance around the town of Bentiu, government troops
reportedly cleared the area using helicopter gunships, some allegedly
piloted by Iraqi soldiers, and aerial cluster bombardment by
high-altitude Antonov planes. This area hosts some of the oil
At the same time during the construction of the oil pipeline, Chinese
workers were apparently involved in the displacement of civilians
without compensation. Sudanese civilians who escaped attacks reported
that the Chinese workers were armed and appeared willing to use their
guns. There are also allegations that mercenaries from Afghanistan,
the Mujahedin fighters, and Malaysia have been reportedly used to
protect the staff and property of companies involved in building the
oil pipeline. Helicopters flown by foreign pilots have been used to
ferry armed opposition troops to areas in which fighting was taking
place. These troops are alleged to have subsequently carried out
atrocities against civilians.
To add insult upon injury, government troops on the ground reportedly
drove people out of their homes by committing gross human rights
violations with male villagers being killed in mass executions and
women and children nailed to trees with iron spikes. Reports from
other villages claim that soldiers slit the throats of children and
killed male civilians who had been interrogated by hammering nails
into their foreheads. The report also condemns rebel forces who have
been accused of attacking and raiding civilian in attempts to gain
control over oil-rich areas. A former commander stated that these
forces had summarily executed scores of civilians, raped and abducted
women and burned and destroyed homesteads.
The report is assertive that oil remains to be the gasoline fueling a
war that has claimed almost two million people since 1983. Infact one
of the rebel forces first armed activities were targeted at the
workers of the oil company Chevron, which planned to construct an oil
pipeline running form the fields of the South to the refineries
located in the northern harbour of Port Sudan.
By publishing the report, the international human rights body wants to
make it clear the link between the massive human rights violations in
the country by government forces and various government allied
militias, and the active oil operations by foreign companies. "The
civilian population living in oil fields and surrounding areas has
been deliberately targeted for massive human rights abuses -- forced
displacement, aerial bombardments, strafing villages from helicopter
gunships, unlawful killings, torture including rape and abduction,"
said Maina Kiai, Amnesty International's Director for Africa.
AI accuses foreign companies for turning a blind eye to the human
rights violations committed by government security forces and their
allied troops in the name of protecting the security of oil-producing
areas. "Respect for human rights should be the central issue for any
company which is involved in a war-torn environment such as southern
Sudan the silence of powerful oil companies in the face of injustice
and human rights violations is not neutral," said the report.
Among the multinational companies drilling oil in Sudan are The Great
Nile Petroleum and oil Corporation (GNPOC) whose main shareholders are
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Petronas, a Malaysian
state-owned company, Canada's Talisman Energy. Another major company
is International Petroleum Corporation (IPC) wholly owned
Stockholm-based Ludin Oil AB. Others oil companies involved in Sudan
are Agip (Italy), Elf-Aquitane(France), Gulf Petroleum Company
(Qatar), National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) and TotalFina (France).
In addition Royal Dutch Shell (The Netherlands) owns a refinery in
It is estimated that oil revenue from these companies will generate an
income of US$1million per day for the Sudanese government - the same
amount which the is currently believed to be spending on its armed
conflict each day and is also the amount that Operation Lifeline Sudan
(OLS), the United Nations (UN) relief umbrella organisation, spends on
relief for the people of Sudan each day.
The report further cites a clear connection between the oil wealth and
the government's ability to purchase arms. On the day of the export
shipment of the first 600,000 barrels of oil, an import shipment of 20
Polish T-55 tanks arrived in Port Sudan. This shipment by Polish
government, says Amnesty, was in violation of a long-standing UN
embargo on arms transfers to the Sudanese government. Further arms
transfers to Sudan from China and Bulgaria have also been reported.
The report also came after an eye witness, Derrek Hammond, head of
Faith in Action, a Christian relief ministry, revealed to the world
the tragedy unfolding in the country. This was after a one week tour
of the oil-rich Bentiu area as well as another oil region of Melut in
the Northern Upper Nile. Derrek says that in Northern Upper Nile,
thousands of people have been displaced and are hiding under trees in
thick bush for protection from continual raids from government troops.
Further, people have no food and are eating leaves, berries and water
lillies. He said: "I saw this and have actual video footage. The
children and elderly are in very poor condition, many are critically
ill without any access to medical care. Many are dying."
Derrek who has been travelled into Sudan for over 20 times since 1997
and 8 times this year to both the oil regions and the Nuba further
recounts the uncertainty of the local people who do not build shelters
or huts fearing that these will become immediate targets for raiding
government troops or pro-government militias. "Families live
individually, seeking shelter and protection under trees. I
experienced this first hand, as we waited for the sun to go down and
the cover of darkness before moving deep into the bush to find a
secure place to sleep under a tree," he said. He reported that in
Upper Nile, 105 people have been murdered in recent weeks with another
26 young men who were suspected of being pro-rebel being given the
"river journey" mutilation of limbs and then tied in a sack and
thrown into the Nile river.
Like the Amnesty report, Derrek witnessed a clear link between oil and
the abuse of human rights in Sudan. It is clear that "a humanitarian
crisis and nightmare is unfolding in this region of the Upper Nile
while oil contracts are being signed in the West," asserts Derrek who
walked great distances and saw many deserted and destroyed villages
with evidence of any food and many young and old people in serious
condition, suffering from sickness and malnutrition.
The international human rights body call on the government of Sudan,
the Sudan People's Liberation Army and other opposition groups, the
international community to publicly condemn human rights violations
committed against civilians in the region of the oilfields in Western
Upper Nile and elsewhere in the war zones.