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'.
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
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
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".
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
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 http://www.londonmuslims.com/sudan/blind.htm);
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 http://msanews.mynet.net/MSANEWS/20000704.22.html
2 See 'Sudan News April 2001' on Inter-Church Coalition
on Africa Web-site at http://www.web.net/~iccaf/humanrights/sudaninfo/newsapr01.htm
3 See 'Sudan NGO Letter to Member of Parliament (Canada)'
on Inter-Church Coalition on Africa Web-site at http://www.web.net/~iccaf/h
4 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases
Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post' (Canada), 19 April
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
7 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases
Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post' (Canada), 19 April
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
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