Published May 2001





It is disappointing to note that Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF) continues to misinform the Canadian public with regard to events in Sudan. ICCAF's clearly selective and unbalanced activity on Sudan has already been commented upon in 'Turning a "Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear to Crimes Against Humanity": The Inter-Church Coalition on Africa and Sudan'. (1)

It is sad to relate that ICCAF continues to serve as the Canadian extension of the American anti-Sudan lobby tenaciously wedded to the failed Sudan policies of the previous Clinton Administration. In so doing it continues to echo questionable claims made by equally questionable, often right-wing Christian fundamentalist groups and others in the United States. Even a cursory review of ICCAF's recent positions and statements on Sudan illustrates the disjointed and distorted image it projects of the country - projections based on questionable claims.

In April 2001, for example, ICCAF published as part of its 'Sudan News' a report entitled 'Sudan: Oil Before Food'. Amongst other things this report alleged, on second hand accounts, that Sudanese government forces have left "the areas around oil installations and supply roads virtually empty of the original population...Tens of thousands have been forced to flee their homesteads." The report also spoke of "continued expulsions of the people living in 'promising' oil fields". (2) In a February 2001 letter to Canadian Parliamentarians, ICCAF Coordinator Gary Kenny had similarly asserted that the Sudanese government has used "scorched-earth warfare to secure the oil fields for development. Thousands have been brutally driven off their lands." (3)

These particular claims can now be assessed. The focus of many of these questionable allegations has been the Canadian oil company Talisman Energy. In April 2001 Talisman released the results of a detailed analysis of a series of satellite photographs taken of their oil concession in Sudan. The images analysed by the leading British satellite imagery analysis company, the Kalagate Imagery Bureau, included civilian satellite images collected last year and images acquired by U.S. military intelligence satellites in 1965, 1967, and 1969. Ground resolution in the images varied between about three feet and 10 feet. There were additional lower resolution Landsat images from the 1980s and Radarsat images from 2000. (4) The images were analysed by Geoffrey John Oxlee, a former head of the United Kingdom Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre and one of Britain's leading experts in the field.

Mr Oxlee focused his analysis on the epicentres of the oil areas claimed by ICCAF to have been subject to population displacement. Mr Oxlee stated: "there is no evidence of appreciable human migration from any of the seven sites examined." (5) To the contrary, he further stated that analysis revealed that "once the sites were developed, then people did come into the area, and in fact it looked as if people developed around the oil sites rather than going away from it." (6) He further stated that he would stand by his conclusions in court, if needed. It is inconceivable that the "scorched earth" displacement of thousands of civilians as claimed by Gary Kenny would not have been immediately noticeable in the satellite pictures studied.

When asked if there was any possibility of interference with the pictures he analysed, Mr Oxlee stated that the satellite photographs examined "are genuine pictures. Having looked at hundreds of thousands of satellite pictures, there's no way these pictures have been doctored. Absolutely none. We check these things out." (7)

ICCAF's third or fourth-hand disinformation about Sudanese oil fields would appear to have been partly displaced by first-hand state-of-the-art science.

Mr Kenny's reliance on questionable disinformation on Sudan is a matter of record. His gullibility is perhaps nowhere better displayed than in ICCAF's 'Sudan Urgent Action Bulletin #5 August 31, 2000'. In it ICCAF states that "A very critical situation is developing in Sudan. China appears poised to intervene militarily to protect its investment in the oil fields". The 'Sudan Urgent Action Bulletin' urged Canadians to write to the Canadian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on this issue, and included, as a model letter that written by ICCAF chairman Rodger Talbot to the Canadian Foreign Minister. This letter claimed that "credible reports indicate that China is worried that access to its premier off- shore source of oil is at imminent risk as a result of advancing SPLA forces. Under such circumstances it makes sense that China would want to act to defend its strategic interests." ICCAF then sought to use these "credible reports" as a weapon to demand Canadian government action against Talisman Energy, the Canadian company involved in the Sudanese oil project.

The "credible report" referred to by ICCAF was an outlandish article which appeared in 'The Sunday Telegraph' of London. (8) This story, written by Christina Lamb, claimed that China was about to move 700,000 soldiers to Sudan to protect Chinese interests in the Sudanese oil project. Even the Clinton Administration, as hostile as it was to the Sudanese authorities, had to dismiss the claims, stating that even "the figure of tens of thousands of troops is just not credible based on information available to us".(9) The British government was also questioned in the British Parliament about the "allegations that 700,000 Chinese soldiers have been deployed in southern Sudan". The government responded: "We have no evidence of the presence of any Chinese soldiers in Sudan, let alone the figure of 700,000 alleged in one press report." (10) It should perhaps be pointed out to ICCAF that firstly, it has been nine months since the "credible report" and there has been no sign of the massive, unprecedented air or sea-bridge carrying 700,000 Chinese soldiers to Sudan; and secondly, the "advancing" SPLA do not appear to
have encroached upon China's "strategic interests" within the oil fields.

(Aficionados of disinformation and those with a sense of humour might be interested to learn that Ms Lamb is also noted for having written a similarly inventive 'Sunday Telegraph' article in which she alleged that Saddam Hussein had sent belly-dancing assassins, led by a belly-dancing teacher called "Maleen", to kill opponents in Britain. (11) When asked if there was any evidence to support this particular claim, the British government stated that: "We have no evidence to corroborate this report." (12) )

For the sake of ICCAF's already tarnished reputation, Mr Kenny should choose his "credible" sources with regard to Sudan with a lot more caution.

In his Parliamentary letter, Kenny claims that the Sudanese government "has yet to address in good faith the key issues of separation of state and religion and southern self-determination". He ignores the fact that in 1991 the present Sudanese government exempted the largely non-Muslim southern Sudan from the Islamic sharia law introduced by Washington's ally General Nimeiri in late 1983. Even the Clinton Administration had to admit that sharia law is not applied in the south. (13) Kenny also chooses to ignore the fact that the Sudanese government has since 1997 offered an internationally-supervised referendum whereby the people of southern Sudan would be able to decide their own future. This offer was incorporated into Sudan's new 1998 constitution and has been repeated on several occasions. (14)

Mr Kenny also states in his letter that "aerial bombing" has doubled in the past two years. What he does not reveal is that in June 2000, the American-backed Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebel movement broke the humanitarian ceasefire that had been in place throughout the vast Bahr al-Ghazal region of southern Sudan since 1998. The United Nations IRIN reported for example that in early July 2000 "the European Union presidency issued a declaration...expressing its grave concern regarding the offensive by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the Bahr el Ghazal region".(15) This deliberate action by the SPLA resulted in renewed military activity in a very large, previously peaceful part of southern Sudan. All forms of military activity may very well have doubled as a result. Mr Kenny also ignores the fact that Khartoum continues to offer a comprehensive ceasefire.

He claims that the Sudanese government has doubled its military expenditures between 1998-2000 as a result of oil revenues. In March 2001 the British government was asked whether it had any evidence that Sudanese oil revenues were being spent on arms procurement. Their answer was: "There is evidence to suggest that military expenditure has remained stable". (16)

He claims that Canada's policy of constructive engagement with Sudan since early last year has "fallen short on most counts". It is unclear which counts he is referring to. Some key indicators present a different story. Led by former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, himself ousted from power by the present government and its most vigorous critic, most of the northern opposition parties have returned from exile because, as al-Mahdi has stated, there "are now circumstances and developments which could favour an agreement on a comprehensive political solution." (17)

Internationally, the European Union has also publicly stated that it has "noticed signs of improvement" in Sudan's political situation. Sudan's regional standing is at an all-time high. Agence France Presse reported in February 2000 that Sudan was "Heading for Improved Ties with Neighbours". From having been mired in regional conflicts, Sudan has over the past three years emerged as a leader of its region, culminating in Sudan's current presidency of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) body made up of seven eastern and central African countries. And in February 2001, Sudan was also elected president of the sixteen-strong Community of Sahel-Saharan States. Sudan's neighbours would seem to have believed that "constructive engagement" has worked.

In June 2000 South Africa and Algeria, in their capacities as chairs of the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement and the 22-member Arab Group of states respectively, called on the United Nations to withdraw the limited diplomatic sanctions in place on Sudan since 1996. The Organisation of African Unity, representing 53 African countries has also urged the Security Council to rescind the sanctions in question. The OAU had also nominated Sudan for the Africa seat on the U.N. Security Council. Ongoing economic reforms and progress have also seen the restoration of Sudan' membership and voting rights with the International Monetary Fund.

By any objective criteria constructive engagement with Sudan has been successful. The Canadian government should rightly claim its part in that process.

In conclusion, it is safe to say that the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa's track record on Sudan is self-evidently a questionable one.
While possibly sincerely motivated they have unconsciously misinformed many Canadians interested in Sudanese affairs. It is time that they took stock of their clear short-comings on this issue.


1 See, 'Turning a "Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear to Crimes Against Humanity": The Inter-Church Coalition on Africa and Sudan', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, April 2000, (a copy is web-posted at; and 'A Critique of ICCAF's Response to 'Turning a "Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear to Crimes Against Humanity": The Inter-Church Coalition on Africa and Sudan' at

2 See 'Sudan News April 2001' on Inter-Church Coalition on Africa Web-site at

3 See 'Sudan NGO Letter to Member of Parliament (Canada)' on Inter-Church Coalition on Africa Web-site at umanrights/sudaninfo/memparl0201.htm

4 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post' (Canada), 19 April 2001.

5 'Talisman Energy Says Study Disproves Sudan Allegations', Dow Jones Newswire, 18 April 2001.

6 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post' (Canada), 19 April 2001.

7 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post' (Canada), 19 April 2001.

8 Christina Lamb, 'China Puts "700,000 Troops" on Sudan Alert', 'The Sunday Telegraph' (London), 26 August 2000.

9 'U.S.: Reports of China's Role in Sudanese War Are Overstated', News Article by UPI on 29 August 2000.

10 House of Lords 'Official Record', Written Answer, 5 March 2001, column WA10.

11 Christina Lamb, 'Saddam Sends Female Assassins on London Murder Mission', 'The Sunday Telegraph' (London), 30 July 2001.

12 House of Lords 'Official Record', Written Answer, 7 March 2001, column WA31.

13 'Sudan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1995', Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, United States Department of State, Washington-DC, February 1996.

14 See, 'Sudan offers South secession', News Article by BBC, 22 February 1999 at 00:16:14 GMT; 'Southern secession better than more war: Sudan's president', News Article by Agence France Presse, 22 February 1999, at 10:04:31; 'Referendum agreed at Sudan peace talks', News Article by BBC World, 7 May 1998, at 11:06 GMT; 'Sudan Says Happy for South to secede', News Article by Reuters, 7 May 1998.

15 'Sudan: EU Concern Over Break of Bahr el Ghazal Ceasefire', Integrated Regional Information Networks, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 3 July 2000.

16 House of Lords 'Official Record', Written Answer, 5 March 2001, column WA10.

17 'Developments in Sudan Favour National Reconciliation: Mahdi', News Article by Agence France Presse on 25 December 1999 at 12:38:20

Espac Published by The European - Sudanese Public Affairs Council Copyright © David Hoile 2005
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