In Brussels, on 31 May 2001, a number of
European organisations, describing themselves as "working
for peace for Sudan", launched what they called the 'European
Coalition on Oil in Sudan' (ECOS). This "public appeal" was
regrettably characterised by questionable allegations and
stale positions. Above all else it demonstrated what can at
best be described as a naïve arrogance in its calls for
sanctions on Sudan.
This grouping made serious claims about the Sudanese oil project,
namely that "in the oilfields of the Sudan, thousands of civilians
have been killed and displaced, their villages burned to the
ground". It called both for all those involved in Sudan's
oil sector to suspend their operations until the Sudanese
civil war comes to an end, and for the European Union to introduce
sanctions to that effect.
It is regrettable that such an alliance of European organisations
should make allegations that have been repeatedly questioned
by better informed observers nearer to the areas concerned
and, indeed, in large part disproven by independent analysts.
It is equally disappointing that on the basis of these questionable
claims ECOS has then chosen to arrogantly demand that the
poverty-stricken people of Sudan should not be able to develop
their own natural resources.
The partisan nature of ECOS is also clearly illustrated by
the fact while it called on the Sudanese government, other
governments and companies to take necessary steps "towards
peace" in the oil fields it pointedly did not call on the
Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels to stop their
concerted attacks on the population around Sudan's oil areas
- despite such Associated Press headlines as 'Sudanese Rebels
Plan to Intensify War Around Oil Fields". (1)
ECOS ALLEGATIONS OF OIL-FIELD DISPLACEMENT NOT CREDIBLE
The basis for the claims made by ECOS that thousands of Sudanese
civilians have been displacement has been disproved by a detailed
recent scientific analysis of satellite pictures taken over
a number of years in the very areas of Sudan concerned.
The study was commissioned by the Canadian oil company Talisman
Energy, one of the companies involved in the Sudanese oil
sector. Talisman asked a leading British satellite imagery
analysis company, Kalagate Imagery Bureau, to study a series
of satellite photographs taken of several parts of their oil
concession in Sudan, the epicentre of the sort of "displacement"
claimed by ECOS. The images analysed by 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. (2) The images were analysed by Geoffrey
John Oxlee, one of Britain's leading experts in the field.
(3) Mr Oxlee found that "there is no evidence of appreciable
human migration from any of the seven sites examined." (4)
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." (5)
The massive "displacement" alleged by ECOS would have been
immediately obvious in any such study. Asked if there was
any chance that he had been provided with doctored images,
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."
It would appear from detailed satellite picture analysis that
that far from witnessing the systematic displacement of civilians,
southern civilians seem to be being drawn towards the oil
ECOS: OUT OF STEP WITH THE DEVELOPING WORLD
It is all too evident that the European Coalition on Oil in
Sudan is out of step with attitudes towards Sudan within the
international community, and particularly the developing world.
As much is admitted by ECOS when it stated in its "public
appeal" that "the international isolation of Sudan is ending."
ECOS is repeating stale claims and echoing naïve and
arrogant demands which the international community have dismissed
quite some time ago. The Canadian government attempted to
introduce a resolution containing many of the same measures
called for by ECOS while Canada was chairman of the United
Nations Security Council in 2000. The Canadian government
had to drop this idea in the face of considerable opposition
from the international community. The Canadian ambassador
to the United Nations, Robert Fowler, admitted that:
"The representations we received suggested that the timing
was not right, that there were important peace initiatives
under way both from Libya and Egypt. The Arab League and the
OAU (Organization of African Unity), as well as the nonaligned
movement, suggested to us that council engagement on this
issue at this time would not be productive." (6)
It should be noted that the Non-Aligned Movement is made up
of 113 nations. The fact that the Non-Aligned Movement, the
Organisation of African Unity and Arab League as well as the
vital regional IGAD nations have opposed, and continue to
oppose, the very sanctions called for by ECOS shows how out
of step these Christian, middle-class, white European activists
are with much of the world, and particularly within the developing
world, on Sudan.
Indeed far from seeking to impose any new sanctions on Sudan,
the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity,
Salim Ahmed Salim, has called for the lifting of the vestigial
limited diplomatic sanctions remaining on Sudan: "The lifting
of sanctions imposed on Sudan is not only urgently called
for, but would also positively contribute to efforts aimed
at promoting peace, security and stability in the region.
The very economic boom that has accompanied oil production
in Sudan also serves to economically stabilise the region.
Yet this is the very stability that ECOS threatens. The obscenity
of well-fed, middle-class white European activists with too
much free time on their hands arrogantly stating that poor
black and brown Africans should not be able to develop their
economy, either nationally or regionally, and that they should
continue to live in poverty and famine, is all too obvious
TURNING A BLIND EYE TO THE BIGGEST OBSTABLE TO PEACE IN SUDAN
"The people in Sudan want to resolve the conflict. The biggest
obstacle is US government policy. The US is committed to overthrowing
the government in Khartoum. Any sort of peace effort is aborted,
basically by policies of the United States...Instead of working
for peace in Sudan, the US government has basically promoted
a continuation of the war." (8)
Former United States President Jimmy Carter
In its public appeal ECOS described itself as working for
peace in Sudan, and repeatedly refers to the need for peace
in Sudan. The first thing to note is that any objective analysis
of the obstacles to peace in that country, could not fail
to note the American government's premeditated attempts to
obstruct peace there. This was not in any way reflected in
ECOS' 'public appeal' and the work, if any, that ECOS signatory
organisations have done on Sudan. Simply put, ECOS has shown
either crass naivety or have deliberately ignored American
intervention. ECOS hypocritically expresses concern about
revenues which it claims fuel conflict in Sudan. It has not
uttered a word about the millions of dollars in direct military
assistance to one side to the conflict, namely the rebel Sudan
People's Liberation Army. (9) This is a fact not in question,
and openly and publicly proclaimed by the United States government
and Congress. If ECOS and its constituents were sincerely
concerned about revenues funding conflict in Sudan, the very
least they could have done was criticise blatant American
financial support - and encouragement - for both war and,
what is worse, intransigence within the peace process. Instead,
in calling for a suspension of oil operations until "peace"
in Sudan, they directly echo the stance taken by the SPLA.
Former President Carter has also made it clear that his concern
about the American obstruction of peace in Sudan is still
a current one. Speaking in April 2001, he said;
"For the last eight years, the U.S. has had a policy which
I strongly disagree with in Sudan, supporting the revolutionary
movement and not working for an overall peace settlement"
. (11) The biggest single obstacle to peace therefore, in
the eyes of informed, neutral observers such as former President
Carter, has been American policy. This was not in any way
reflected in the public appeal made by ECOS.
It is evident that the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan,
and its constituent organisations, are either disastrously
ill-informed on Sudan or have deliberately adopted partisan
views that either favour, or directly echo, rebel SPLA policies
- policies which are obstructing the search for peace in Sudan.
ECOS has also demanded sanctions against Sudan which would
adversely affect the poverty-stricken people of the country
as well as its regional neighbours. These demands clearly
run contrary to established international opinion on Sudan.
It is extraordinarily conceited of ECOS and its members to
make such demands and to attempt to influence Europe's political
institutions. In encouraging the SPLA to use the oil issue
as a further excuse for not accepting a ceasefire, ECOS itself
prolongs the very conflict about which it professes concern.
1 'Sudanese Rebels Plan to Intensify War Around Oil Fields',
News Article by Associated Press on 6 June 2000.
2 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases
Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post', (Canada), 19 April 2001.
3 It should be noted that Mr Oxlee retired from the Royal
Air Force with the rank of Group Captain (in American terms
a full Colonel). He is the former head of the United Kingdom
Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre. He is the author
of 'Aerospace Reconnaissance', (published by Brasseys in 1997).
Mr Oxlee is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and
the Expert Witness Institute.
4 Talisman Energy Says Study Disproves Sudan Allegations',
Dow Jones Newswire, 18 April 2001.
5 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases
Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post', (Canada), 19 April 2001.
6 Canada Drops Bid to Discuss Sudan in U.N. Council', News
Article by Reuters on 5 April 2000 at 00:36:08 EST.
7 'OAU Urges Security Council to Lift Sudan Sanctions', News
Article by Reuters on 20 June 2000.
8 'Carter, Others Say US Has Faltered in Africa', 'The Boston
Globe', 8 December 1999.
9 This military funding spans several years. See, for example,
'Sudan Criticizes U.S. Aid to Rebels', 'The Washington Times',
30 May 2001 and reports of 20 million
dollars of military assistance carried in 'The Sunday Times',
(London), 17 November 1996
10 See, for example, 'Ceasefire Blocked by Oil Demands, Says
Government', United Nations IRIN Article, 2 May 2001.
11 'Carter Says Wrong Time for Mideast Talks', News Article
by Reuters, 24 April 2001.