Published June 2001





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)


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 concessions.


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. (7)

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


"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. (10)

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.

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