In January 2002, the International Crisis
Group (ICG) published a book-length report on Sudan entitled
'God, Oil and Country: Changing the Logic of War in Sudan'.
Written by ICG's Africa Program Co-Director, the former
Clinton Administration's Africa director, John Prendergast,
the report sought to position itself as an authoritative
examination of the Sudanese civil war. Sadly, this report
was deeply flawed by questionable scholarship and Prendergast's
self-serving inability or unwillingness in several crucial
respects to differentiate between fact and
misinformation on Sudan.
It is surely questionable to allow individuals who were
intimately, and ideologically, involved in an issue, and
who formulated and sought to implement a flawed policy which
clearly failed, to then analyse that situation, including
that policy. To have that analysis packaged as somehow authoritative
and independent is deeply problematic. It is a
rare person who would be able to be honest and objective
in such circumstances. Prendergast is not one of those people.
His inability to do so is evident in this report, which
includes commentary which is best described as fundamentally
unsound where not simply stale or sterile. He persists in
making allegations about Sudan on the basis of questionable
second and third-hand claims, often from partisan sources
- hardly the basis for a credible study of the Sudanese
situation. Sudan was the Nicaragua of the 1990s. Prendergast
certainly though so. (1) Given Prendergast's close and enthusiastic
identification with the destabilisation by any means of
Sudan, it would be analogous to allowing Oliver North to
write an ICG paper on a Nicaragua still ruled by the Sandinistas
after years of trying to topple that regime.
No assessment of Prendergast's commentary on Sudan can be
separated from an analysis of Prendergast's own involvement
in the Clinton Administration. It must be stated, in passing,
that it is somewhat ironic that Prendergast is the International
Crisis Group's African co-director, and that the ICG states
that it "works to prevent and contain
deadly conflict". (2) Prendergast was closely associated
with the Clinton Administration's Africa policies - policies
which caused and built upon deadly conflict almost wherever
it touched the continent. It was a Democratic Congresswoman,
Cynthia McKinney, a member of the House of Representatives
Committee on International Relations and Committee on National
Security, who perhaps summed this Africa policy up best
in a 1999 letter to President Clinton:
"I feel compelled to report to you that crimes against humanity
are being committed...throughout Africa, seemingly with
the help and support of your administration. I would suggest
to you that U.S. policy in the Democratic Republic of Congo
has failed and it is another example of our policy failures
across the continent. One only has to point to
diplomatic duality in Ethiopia and Eritrea, indecisiveness
and ambivalence in Angola, indifference in Democratic Republic
of Congo, the destruction of democracy in Sierra Leone,
and inflexibility elsewhere on the continent. The result
is an Africa policy in disarray, a continent on fire, and
U.S. complicity in crimes against humanity....your Africa
policy has not only NOT helped to usher in the so-called
'African Renaissance,' but has contributed to the continued
pain and suffering of the African peoples." (3)
Congresswoman McKinney is only one amongst many critics.
The American periodical, 'The New Republic', has also observed:
"The Clinton administration's Africa policy will probably
go down as the strangest of the postcolonial age; it may
also go down as the most grotesque...Indeed, confronted
with several stark moral challenges, the Clinton administration
has abandoned Africa every time: it fled from Somalia, it
watched American stepchild Liberia descend into chaos, it
blocked intervention in Rwanda...Clinton's soaring rhetoric
has posed a problem that his predecessors did not face -
the problem of rank hypocrisy...the Clintonites have developed
a policy of coercive
'The New Republic' also pointed out that Capitol Hill Africa
specialists have described the Clinton Administration's
dishonesty as "positively Orwellian". (5 ) There is no clearer
example of that dishonesty than the Clinton Administration's
Sudan policy. This policy was just another example of inflexibility,
systemic misjudgement and mismanagement. (6 ) And Prendergast
was central to this Africa policy, serving as director of
African affairs at the Nation Security Council from 1997-1999
and then as special advisor to the American assistant secretary
of state for
African affairs, Susan Rice.
It is perhaps fitting that having so loyally served the
Clinton Administration and therefore seemingly having been
responsible for considerable deadly conflict, Prendergast
spends some time attempting to put right the Clinton Administration's
disastrous failures on Africa. This report, however, would
indicate that on the Sudan issue he has
failed to leave this luggage behind. It reflects a deeply
flawed analysis - one still steeped in propaganda rather
This perhaps is enough to allow the readers of 'God, Oil
and Country' to assess Mr Prendergast's reliability as an
analyst. Not only does Prendergast not have the honesty
to admit to the Clinton Administration's monumental policy
failure with regard to Sudan, he actually attempts to downplay
or ignore that failure, while seeking to recycle parts of
it within this report.
This report, at 250-pages, is over-long, and consists in
large part of what can best be described as gossip, by way
of unattributed comments. The only people who seem to have
agreed to be quoted are government of Sudan officials, a
demonstration of the confidence of that government in its
Sudan has been at war with itself, except for a period of
peace from 1972-1983, since 1955. From 1983 the war has
been fought between the government and the Sudan People's
Liberation Army (SPLA). There are three things that the
Clinton Administration, ably assisted by Prendergast, succeeded
in with regard to Sudan. Firstly, it encouraged
and prolonged the Sudanese civil war. Secondly, it succeeded
in demonising Sudan by way of a devastating propaganda war,
particularly within the United States. Thirdly, the heavy-handed
ineptitude of this policy managed to move Sudan from an
all too obvious position of diplomatic isolation in 1996
to a position by 2000/2001 of normalisation internationally,
and leadership within Africa and regionally. (7)
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has been very candid
about the Clinton Administration's attempts to prevent a
peaceful resolution of the Sudanese conflict:
"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)
On another occasion he observed: "[T]he United States government
has a policy of trying to overthrow the government in Sudan.
So whenever there's a peace initiative, unfortunately our
government puts up whatever obstruction it can." (9) These
are clearly serious charges for a former American president
to have made about another U.S. administration, all the
more so coming from someone as widely respected as Jimmy
Carter, himself a long-standing observer of Sudanese affairs.
In addition to militarily, logistically and financially
supporting the SPLA in its war against Khartoum, the Clinton
Administration also actively encouraged several military
regimes neighbouring Sudan to further militarily destabilise
Africa's largest country. Carter has also bluntly stated
that the Clinton Administration's US$20 million grant in
military aid to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda was "a tacit
demonstration of support for the overthrow of the Khartoum
government". He also believed that this behaviour by Washington
had a negative effect on the SPLA's interest in negotiating
a political settlement: "I think Garang now feels he doesn't
need to negotiate because he anticipates a victory brought
about by increasing support from his immediate neighbors,
and also from the United States and indirectly from other
It should also be pointed out that given the dangers of
encouraging unstable countries such as Uganda to destabilise
their neighbours, the Clinton Administration's responsibility
for the horrific civil war within the Democratic Republic
of Congo from 1997 onwards is clear. Encouraged by Washington,
Uganda's destabilisation of Zaire spiralled out of control
into a vicious war in which countries such as Rwanda, Burundi,
Chad, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa have also
become militarily entangled. It is ironic, therefore, for
Clinton Administration officials such as assistant Secretary
of State for African affairs, Susan Rice, to have then claimed
at the same time that the Clinton Administration's policy
was to limit "trans-national" conflicts. (11) Once again,
the intellectual dishonesty of the Clinton Administration
is all too clear.
Prendergast repeatedly states in his report that a "window"
for peace has opened in the wake of the 11 September terrorist
attacks in the United States. What he fails to tell his
readers is that this window, both in terms of peace and
counter-terrorism, has been open for a number of years and
that it was the Clinton Administration, of which he was
the Africa and Sudan expert, that repeatedly either ignored
the openings or desperately sought to close the window.
Prendergast states that the "broad strokes of a peace deal
could potentially include the following fundamental compromises:
a federal constitution neither based on religion nor labelled
secular, with each regional entity or state able to craft
its own laws; asymmetrical federalism (with a higher degree
of autonomy for the south) during an interim period, backed
by credible international guarantees, with mutually agreed
benchmarks that if not met would trigger a self-determination
referendum for the south; and an internationally monitored
mechanism for wealth sharing that ensures that all sides
benefit from implementation." (12) Essentially these "broad
strokes" formed the basis of the watershed 1997 Khartoum
peace agreement signed between the Sudanese government and
several southern Sudanese leaders and political groupings,
including the South Sudan Independence Movement, led by
Dr Riek Machar, the SPLA (Bahr al-Ghazal Group) represented
by Kerubino Bol Kuanyin and Arok Thon Arok's SPLA-Bor group,
The agreement provided for a free and fair, internationally-supervised,
referendum in southern Sudan to determine whether the people
of the south desire independence or federation. The south
would continue to be exempt from sharia law. The agreement
also guaranteed freedom of movement, assembly, organisation,
speech and press, and provided for an equitable representation
of southerners at all levels within Sudan. It further provided
for the formation of a 25-member Southern Coordination Council,
to include a president, 14 ministers and the 10 southern
state governors, to serve as a southern government until
such a referendum, which was to have been held in four years
time given a situation of peace. It was also agreed that
there would be an equitable sharing of national resources
between the different regions of Sudan, with priority given
to the reconstruction of the south. The Khartoum Peace Agreement,
along with its clauses confirming the equitable sharing
of oil wealth, was incorporated into the 1999 Constitution
- itself clearly not an Islamic constitution.
Rather than jump at Khartoum's unprecedented offers of a
new constitutional federal dispensation up to and including
a referendum on southern Sudan's future outlined in the
1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement, the SPLA chose first to downplay
it. (13) And when the organisation did accept the concept
of a referendum (14) the SPLA then demanded that any such
referendum should include a redrawing of the 1956 boundaries
of what constituted southern Sudan. They additionally complicated
matters by demanding that other areas of Sudan, namely the
Nuba mountains and Ingessana hills, should also be afforded
referenda on self-determination. It would be analogous to
parties to a referendum in Canada on Quebec's political
status demanding that the province's boundaries be redrawn
and that parts of Ontario and Labrador be included. There
can be no doubt that the Clinton Administration had
encouraged such a response, eager as it was to continue
with the military destabilisation of Sudan. There can also
be no doubt that the SPLA's tutored indifference to the
1997 Khartoum agreement itself led to the genesis of the
Libyan-Egyptian peace initiative which broadened the issue
out into an all-inclusive national issue.
The end result of the Clinton Administration's dabbling
in Sudan was that the war has very possibly continued unnecessarily
for five or more years. Prendergast is eager to point out
that two million people have died in the conflict. What
he ignores is that the policy he was so enthusiastically
party to was itself responsible for a large number of those
deaths, and injury and discomfort for countless other Sudanese.
Prendergast states that the "Sudanese are nearly unanimous
in arguing that the most valuable immediate contribution
the international community could make would be to address
the schism between the competing peace initiatives." This
is a facile, self-serving claim.
Given the previous United States' policy of deliberately
prolonging war and actively discouraging a peaceful resolution
of the conflict by way of active support for the SPLA, the
most valuable immediate contribution
would be for those actors within the international community
that have been military assisting and encouraging the SPLA
in its war against the government, namely the United States
and Uganda, to end that support and
encourage a political rather than an unobtainable military
A key methodological failure of the book is Prendergast's
failure to address the deep propaganda dimension to American
policy towards Sudan. That a propaganda component accompanies
any target of American foreign
policy is a simple fact. Propaganda goes hand-in-glove with
any campaign and its use has intensified in the last two
decades. As we will see below, Prendergast has himself drawn
a comparison between American involvement in Sudan and Nicaragua.
The National Security Archive described the Reagan Administration's
propaganda machine with regard to Nicaragua: "To...wage
the important fight for American and international public
opinion, [the White House] created a sophisticated propaganda
apparatus to reshape perceptions of the conflict in Central
This campaign resembled the type of covert propaganda operations
the CIA routinely engages in against foreign nations but
is prohibited from undertaking at home...Moreover...U.S.
military psychological specialists, skilled in 'persuasive
communications,' were detailed to Washington...to 'prepare
studies, papers, speeches and memoranda to
support [public diplomacy] activities,' and look for "exploitable
themes and trends'...The Office of Public Diplomacy peddled
these 'themes' to journalists, editors, academics, conservative
constituent groups, Congress and the general public through
a variety of mechanisms...Public diplomacy tactics also
incorporated what internal documents called
'White Propaganda Operations' - sponsoring stories and opinion
columns in the press while disguising any government connection
- and promoting misinformation." (15) There can be no doubt
whatsoever that the Clinton
Administration initiated similar projects affecting Sudan.
Such state-sponsored propaganda is as much a legacy of contemporary
warfare as landmines, and as with landmines propaganda projections
must also be defused. Rather than do this Prendergast chooses
to rehash repeatedly discredited propaganda claims.
While whatever resonance this propaganda campaign may have
had internationally has gradually dissipated, its impact
domestically within the United States has been dramatic.
It is within the United States that it is at its most powerful
and destructive and continues to have an influence within
the American body politic out of all proportion to its veracity.
The orchestrated propaganda onslaught, with its Islamophobic
undertones, perpetuated by federally-funded bodies such
as the so-called U.S. Commission for International Religious
Freedom (16), was embraced and acted upon a wide cross section
of political and church groups. From this has emerged a
vibrant anti-Sudan industry, which has in turn brought considerable,
ultimately undue, pressure to bear upon the Bush Administration.
There are several examples of Prendergast's inability to
leave his Clinton-era Sudan misjudgements behind him. He
clings tenaciously to questionable Clinton Administration
propaganda projections about Sudan, some of which he may
have developed himself. His repetition of claims that are
clearly dubious are exemplified by his allegations of
terrorism, "institutionalised slavery" in Sudan and the
government's forced "displacement" of civilians from oil-producing
Sudan and International Terrorism
It is ironic that Prendergast seeks to link the "window"
on peace in Sudan to 11 September 2001. He is unsurprisingly
very coy about the fact that the Sudanese government had
repeatedly made offers to share intelligence with Washington
since 1996, five years prior to the terrorists attacks in
the United States. Sudan had even offered to hand
over Osama bin-Laden over to the American government in
that year (just as they had extradited "Carlos the Jackal"
to France in 1995). Following the bombings of the American
embassies in East Africa Sudan arrested two key al-Qaida
organisers who had clearly been involved in the attacks
and offered them to Washington. It is now common knowledge
that the Clinton Administration refused these and several
other Sudanese offers. (17) President Clinton subsequently
acknowledged that these refusals to accept Sudanese offers
was "the biggest mistake" of his presidency. (18) There
are those who have openly stated that the Clinton Administration
was therefore indirectly responsible for the World Trade
Center and Pentagon disasters. (19)
It is hard to point to a clearer case of governmental ineptitude
with regard to "terrorism" than the Clinton Administration's
"policy" towards Sudan. Unlike Mr Clinton, Prendergast hasn't
even conceded that he made a mistake - indeed he exudes
the same arrogance that led to the "mistakes" in the first
The Clinton Administration's projection of Sudan as a terrorist
state began with a lie and then went downhill, ultimately
running aground for all time with its farcical 1998 cruise
missile attack on the al-Shifa medicines factory in Khartoum.
It initially listed Sudan as a "state sponsor of terrorism"
in 1993. This listing was questioned from the start by former
President Jimmy Carter, who asked to see the evidence for
Sudan's listing. He reported that: "In fact, when I later
asked an assistant secretary of state he said they did not
have any proof, but there were strong allegations" (20)
- clearly ignoring the strict legal definitions to be met
before such a listing. While Sudan may have been keeping
bad company at the time, even the American ambassador to
Sudan at the time has said that he did not believe Sudan
warranted such a listing. (21) Nor does Prendergast mention,
or in any seek to address, the fact that in 1998 it was
admitted that at least one hundred CIA reports on Sudan
and terrorism were scrapped as unreliable or having been
fabricated. (22) The gap between American claims about Sudan,
and reality, was also clearly demonstrated by Washington's
inept attack on the al-Shifa factory, an attack acknowledged
to have been the result of yet more disastrous American
intelligence failures. (23) While Prendergast does have
the courage to mention the al-Shifa factory, he doggedly
clings to the facile line that American "evidence was not
presented publicly, however, because the U.S. said it wished
to protect intelligence sources and methods". (24) The Administration
he served repeatedly blocked Sudanese requests for a United
Nations inspection of the al-Shifa site. As one Sudanese
diplomat at the United Nations observed of the Clinton Administration's
double standards: "You guys bombed Iraq because it blocked
U.N. weapons inspectors. We're begging for a U.N. inspection
and you're blocking it." (25)
Before Prendergast continues to recycle old and stale claims
about Sudan and terrorism he should first account for what
can only be described as the Clinton Administration's fraudulent
and irresponsible claims about Sudan and terrorism, claims
possibly influenced by its systemic intelligence failures
Prendergast's "Institutional Slavery" in Sudan
Prendergast states that "slavery" exists in Sudan. Indeed,
he speaks of "institutionalised slavery" (26) and "militia
slave raids". (27) Sir Robert Ffolkes, director of the Save
the Children (UK) programme in Sudan, an organisation at
the forefront of the abductions issue, bluntly contradicts
the sorts of claims made by Prendergast. Speaking last year
he stated: "I have seen no evidence at all of slave trading.
And believe me, we have looked". (28) Sir Robert has also
said: "I do not believe the government in involved in slave-taking."
The respected human rights expert, and Sudan analyst, Alex
de Waal, while co-director of the human rights group African
Rights, has also commented on claims similar to Prendergast's:
"(O)vereager or misinformed human rights advocates in Europe
and the US have played upon lazy assumptions to raise public
outrage. Christian Solidarity International, for instance,
claims that 'Government troops and Government-backed Arab
militias regularly raid black African communities for slaves
and other forms of booty'. The organization
repeatedly uses the term 'slave raids', implying that taking
captives is the aim of government policy. This despite the
fact that there is no evidence for centrally-organized,
government-directed slave raiding or slave trade." (30)
It should be noted that Prendergast obviously recognises
de Waal as a Sudan expert, citing him and organisations
he is closely associated with on several occasions in the
report. Anti-Slavery International has also stated with
regard to allegations of government involvement in slavery
that: "[T]he charge that government troops engage in raids
purpose of seizing slaves is not backed by the evidence."
The questionable claims made by Prendergast are clearly
the result of questionable sources. He cites, for example,
claims made by Christian Solidarity International (CSI).
(32) In February 2000 the Canadian government special envoy
to Sudan stated that "reports, especially from CSI...were
questioned, and frankly not accepted." (33) Prendergast
accepts CSI claims at face value, presumably because it
is helpful to his propaganda imagery. As seen above, CSI
has been described by reputable human rights activists as
"overeager or misinformed" and that the organisation has
"played upon lazy assumptions to raise public outrage".
Much the same can be said about Prendergast, and it
irresponsible of the International Crisis Group to afford
such a platform for propaganda.
Prendergast also touches upon "slave redemptions". These
sorts of claims have also been extensively questioned. (34)
Reuters, for example, has reported that: "Local aid workers...say
that they have seen children who they have known for months
passed off as slaves...And Reuters interviewed one boy in
Yargot who told a completely implausible story of life in
the north, a story which he changed in every respect when
translators were swapped." (35) Similarly, 'The Christian
Science Monitor' also clearly stated: "There are increasingly
numerous reports that significant numbers of those 'redeemed'
were never slaves in the first place. Rather, they were
simply elements of the local populations,
often children, available to be herded together when cash-bearing
redeemers appeared." (36)
It would appear that Prendergast has been very reluctant
indeed to surrender the propaganda infrastructure the Clinton
Administration put into place about Sudan. Who does one
believe? Reputable professionals who are present in Sudan
full-time or claims made by someone who worked for the Clinton
Oil Displacement Claims
Prendergast's report also falls short on the issue of oil,
so prominently featured in its title, 'God, Oil and Country'.
He unhesitatingly repeats what amount to little more than
propaganda claims that the Sudanese government has "increasingly
tried to remove the populations from around the oilfields".
(37) He cites as sources claims by groups such as Christian
Aid and what he terms an "authoritative study", undertaken
by "two respected human rights researchers", John Ryle and
Georgette Gagnon, alleging the burning of villages and crops,
aerial bombardment and helicopter gunship attacks on civilian
settlements by the government. (38) Prendergast reports
that tens of thousands of people have been forced from oil-rich
areas of Upper Nile.
Presumably at least partly in response to these claims,
one of the partners within the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating
Corporation (GNPOC), the Sudanese oil consortium, commissioned
a leading British satellite imagery analysis company, Kalagate
Imagery Bureau, to independently study a series of satellite
photographs taken of oil
concession areas in Sudan. The images analysed by the Kalagate
Imagery Bureau included military and civilian satellite
images collected over several years. Ground resolution in
the images varied between about three feet and 10 feet,
that is to say very detailed indeed. (39) The images were
analysed by Geoffrey Oxlee, a former head of the United
Kingdom Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre and
Britain's leading expert in the field. (40) Mr Oxlee stated:
"there is no evidence of appreciable human migration from
any of the seven sites examined." (41) On 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." (42) He further
stated that he was prepared to stand by his conclusions
in court. It is inconceivable that massive "scorched earth"
displacement on the scale repeatedly claimed by Prendergast
and others would not have been immediately noticeable in
the satellite pictures studied. Responding to somewhat lame
suggestions that the images may have been tampered with,
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."
Christian Aid's long-distance claims about the forced displacement
of civilians out of oil areas by government forces have
been found somewhat wanting by more "hands on" sources.
Masood Hyder, the Country Director in Sudan for the United
Nations World Food Programme, the agency most directly involved
in dealing with the consequences of any displacements in
Sudan - an agency particularly active within the oil-producing
areas - was unable to verify their "mostly second-hand claims".
He has stated that the report is "based on information they
have gathered which is mostly second-hand or from testimonials.
We have no way of verifying whether the content of their
report is valid or not...Unfortunately, even in the Christian
Aid report, hard, first-hand evidence to make the direct
linkage [referred] to is missing". (44) The World Food Programme
position is perhaps best summed up by the statement that
there is "far too little information available". (45) If
the World Food Programme describes Christian Aid's claims
as "mostly second-hand", does this make Prendergast's claims
third-hand? And are questionable, third-hand claims made
about very sensitive issues central to his commentary acceptable?
The answer is no, it is deeply irresponsible.
In any instance Prendergast's lack of even-handedness is
clear. There has undoubtedly been considerable displacement
as a result of fighting as the SPLA seeks to move closer
to the oil-producing areas - this presumably something the
SPLA would have been encouraged to do by its American advisers.
Several news agencies have reported rebel shelling of
towns and villages as they move closer to the fields. (46)
Prendergast also boldly claims that the Canadian partner
within GNPOC, Talisman Energy, has had a "lack of success...at
engaging the government on human rights". (47) Prendergast
also cites the "authoritative" study by John Ryle and Georgette
Gagnon which similarly claims that "Talisman has failed
at constructive engagement in Sudan and proved unable to
exert a positive influence in the government through its
partnership with Khartoum in oil development." (48) These
claims by white, middle-class, anti-Sudan activists, part
of the lucrative anti-Sudan industry, written from their
comfortable offices and homes in North America and Europe,
following their short political safaris in Sudan, are
contradicted by reputable Sudanese opposition figures. In
June 2001, for example, 'The Washington Post' reported in
an article entitled 'Activists in Sudan Fear Loss of Western
Oil Firms' Influence' that human rights activists within
Sudan "emphasize that as long as the companies involved
are Western, their concerns about corporate citizenship
provide valuable leverage to...many critics. Talisman Energy,
the Canadian firm...has quietly pressed human rights concerns
on a Sudanese government over which the West has little
other influence, the opposition figures say." The paper
quoted prominent Sudanese opposition activist Ghazi Suleiman:
"If Talisman were to pull out of Sudan, this doesn't mean
the oil business will come to an end. Talisman will be replaced
by some company". Suleiman said that any replacement company
will be less interested than Talisman in the Sudanese people.
'The Washington Post' also reported that Suleiman credited
Talisman's presence with some of the freedoms now enjoyed
by opposition parties in Sudan. 'The Economist' has described
Suleiman as "the country's leading human-rights lawyer and
an outspoken critic of the regime" (49) Another voice on
this issue has been that of Alfred Taban, himself from southern
Sudan. Taban, the publisher of 'The Khartoum Monitor', Sudan's
only independent English language newspaper, stated that
Talisman has acknowledged some of the difficulties the oil
project has brought with it: "The way forward is not to
take away companies that admit some of this is going on
and have been working to try to end some of that abuse."
(50) It should be noted that both Suleiman and Taban have
been detained by the Sudanese government on several occasions,
and are much closer to the reality of events within Sudan
than people such as Prendergast, Ryle and Gagnon could ever
Even Prendergast's scholarship is also wanting. In one of
the more glaring examples he gives a less than accurate,
self-serving, account of the dynamics behind the 1983 redivision
of southern Sudan which contributed greatly later that year
to the re-starting of the Sudanese civil war and the formation
of the Sudan People's Liberation Army.
Prendergast sticks rigidly to his propaganda script, attributing
all the impetus for Nimeiri's amendment to the 1972 accord
to northern Sudanese intransigence. He states, for example:
"Southerners were infuriated by abrogation of the Addis
Agreement." (51) He ignores, or is unaware of, the fact
that there was considerable pressure from the southern Sudanese
themselves for such moves. In April 1982, for example, 'Africa
Now' published a special report on the politics of southern
Sudan. In addition to pressure from northern politicians,
'Africa Now' stated that there was also considerable southern
pressure to redivide southern Sudan from people such as
Joseph Lagu, the southern Sudanese military and political
leader during the first phase of the Sudanese civil war,
and the man who negotiated the 1972 accord. 'Africa Now'
reported: "Lagu has been pushing the idea of division for
over a year now, arguing that regionalism and a division
into the three provinces would serve the interests of the
smaller ethnic groups; it would also help to break what
Lagu sees as the political hegemony of the largest single
group in the South, the Dinka...In February last year, Lagu
was complaining about ethnicism in the South, organising
discussion groups to talk about division, and public demonstrations...Lagu
himself...[published] a pamphlet entitled 'Decentralisation
- a necessity for the South'". (52)
In April 1982 elections to the Southern Regional Assembly
saw the return of Equatorian representatives who were overwhelmingly
Equatorian unease with Dinka domination continues to this
day. The UN Special Rapporteur has stated that the SPLA
"was behaving as an occupying army in Eastern Equatoria"
and that thousands of local Didinga people had been displaced.
(53) The BBC have also independently reported that the SPLA
is seen as "an army of occupation" by Equatorian tribes
such as the Didinga. (54) In his more observant days, before
joining the Clinton Administration, Prendergast previously
observed that the SPLA has shown an "absolute disregard
for their human rights" (55):
The SPLA has historically utilized...counter-insurgency
tactics against populations and militias in Equatoria considered
to be hostile...By destroying the subsistence base of certain
groups, relations have been destablized between various
Equatorian populations...This has exacerbated relations
between certain Equatorian communities...The common denominator
between the attacks was the destruction or stripping of
all assets owned by the community, creating increased dependence
and displacement." (56)
Prendergast has also previously admitted elsewhere that
SPLA behaviour included the: "widespread raping and forced
marriages of Equatorian women." (57) He also cited one observer
as saying "The overwhelmingly 'Nilotic' character of the
early SPLA was...enough to alienate many Equatorians" and
personally states that the SPLA is seen in Equatoria as
"an army of occupation." (58) Prendergast scarcely mentions
Equatoria in this study, contradicting, as it does, much
of his analysis of southern Sudan.
American Military Assistance to the SPLA
Prendergast's unreliability as a commentator on Sudan is
self-evident He conveniently claims that the "United States
gave no direct assistance but provided the SPLA with moral
and political support". (59) He also states that "U.S. political
support for the SPLA was widely, but erroneously, believed
to be coupled with financial and logistical aid". To say
that he has been economical with the truth would be an understatement.
Despite Prendergast's attempts to deny it, the Clinton Administration's
military, diplomatic and political support for the SPLA
was an open secret. In its programme of supporting the SPLA,
tens of millions of dollars worth of covert American military
assistance was supplied to the rebels. This included weapons,
landmines, logistical assistance, and military training.
On 17 November 1996, the London 'Sunday Times' reported
that: "The Clinton administration has launched a covert
campaign to destabilise the government of Sudan." 'The Sunday
Times' further stated that: "More than $20m of military
equipment, including radios, uniforms and tents will be
shipped to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda in the next few
weeks...much of it will be passed on to the Sudan People's
Liberation Army (SPLA), which is preparing an offensive
against the government in Khartoum." This was confirmed
by the newsletter 'Africa Confidential': "The United States
pretends the aid is to help the governments concerned...to
protect themselves from Sudan...It is clear the aid is for
Sudan's armed opposition." (60)
Prendergast appears to have forgotten that on one of his
less discrete days he himself confirmed that the Clinton
Administration used the same covert warfare tactics that
the Reagan Administration used against the Sandinista government
in Nicaragua, making a direct comparison between Sudan and
"The parallels to Central America in the 1980s are stark.
The US provided covert aid to the Contras (and official
aid to the regimes in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatamala)
and because of domestic public pressure urged numerous reforms
on the Contras (and the three Central American governments),
especially in the area of human rights and
institutional reform (though the pressures were undercut
by an administration in Washington not serious about human
It is obvious that the Contras in the Sudanese example are
the SPLA. Given that Prendergast himself made the comparison,
it should perhaps be recalled that the Reagan Administration
provided the Nicaraguan Contras with hundreds of millions
of dollars worth of military and "non-lethal" assistance,
which included at the very least $100 million between 1981-85,
$100 million in 1986, $66 million in 1989. (62) The National
Security Archive has stated that "The depth of U.S. control
over the Contras extended into the military sphere...the
CIA supplied the funds, purchased the weapons, established
logistical infrastructure, provided intelligence and target
lists, coordinated the training programs - in
short, ran the paramilitary war." (63) In addition to using
surrogates, the United States has also provided military
training to the SPLA by CIA and special forces instructors.
United States army generals, for example, have been present
during Ugandan army exercises held in conjunction with SPLA
forces and Eritrean army units. The American military presence
in these "front line" states was under the guise that U.S.
advisers were providing "antiterrorist" training. In 1996,
'Africa Confidential' confirmed that the SPLA "has already
received US help via Uganda" and that United States special
forces were on "open-ended deployment" with the rebels.
(64) Prendergast appears to be confident enough of 'Africa
Confidential''s reliability to use cite the newsletter as
a source in his report. He now somewhat disingenuously suggests
that no such thing happened.
Prendergast was also party to moves to provide direct American
government food aid to the SPLA, provoking considerable
controversy in the United States and within the international
community. The military implications of such assistance
were clear. 'The New York Times', for example, plainly stated
that: "The plan is designed by its advocates in
the State Department and the National Security Council to
strengthen the military operations of the Sudan People's
Liberation Army." (65) 'The New York Times' quoted an enthusiastic
Prendergast: "This is so forces can eat more easily and
resupply forces in food-deficit areas." He also said that
the Administration hoped that the food aid would allow rebels
to "stay in position or expand positions in places where
it is difficult to maintain a logistical line." (66) SPLA
leader John Garang clearly stated that the proposed American
food aid would boost the SPLA's military capacity in its
war with the Sudanese government. (67) Speaking in December,
1999, he said that: "We will be able to concentrate more
men in bigger units. Concentration is one of the principles
of war. If you concentrate your manpower or firepower, you
get better results."(68)
Unsurprisingly, the Clinton Administration's stated intention
to feed the SPLA was heavily criticised, domestically and
internationally, by aid agencies, human rights organisations
and other commentators. 'The New York Times' stated of the
policy: "This is likely to prolong the war, ally Washington
with one of Sudan's pre-eminent war criminals and enlist
America in the conflict's most pernicious tactic - the use
of food as a weapon of war." (69) This also notwithstanding
the fact that the Roman Catholic church had reported that
the SPLA was stealing two-thirds of the emergency food aid
coming into rebel-controlled parts of southern Sudan (70)
- at the height of the devastating 1998 famine.
Prendergast would appear in any instance to have a selective
memory about Sudanese affairs. This includes his previous
documentation of SPLA human rights abuses. Before coming
to work for the Clinton Administration, Prendergast worked
as an academic specialising in development issues, particularly
in the Horn of Africa. His 1997 book 'Crisis Response: Humanitarian
Band-Aids in Sudan and Somalia', written before he joined
the Clinton Administration, examined several important aspects
of the Sudanese situation and provided a stark insight into
the SPLA. As an academic, he was one of the few Americans
who was clearly aware that the SPLA "was responsible for
egregious human rights
violations in the territory it controlled". (71) In his
1997 book, for example, Prendergast personally observed
that the SPLA:
"attained possession of adequate means of coercion and has
terrorized the southern population into passive compliance.
The predominant instruments of the movement since 1983 have
been and still are coercion and corruption. It has not managed
to integrate society around any positive values...The movement
has been able to persist only as long as
it successfully coerces, and demoralises social groups in
the region....Institutionalization of the top-down arrangements
by the socialist group who initially established the SPLM/A
has led to a permanent oppression of those persons in the
area under the control of the movement." (72)
Nevertheless, once part of the Clinton Administration, far
from counselling against support for such an organisation,
he became an active party to enthusiastic military, logistical,
financial and logistical support to the group. Indeed, in
'God, Oil and Country' he states that the "rebel movement
was respected by the U.S. government - an important endorsement
for any rebel group constantly in search of legitimacy".
(73) If the Clinton Administration came to "respect" an
organisation mentored by Ethiopia's Marxist Mengistu dictatorship,
an organisation described by 'The New York Times' as led
by a "pre-eminent war criminal" and described by 'The Economist'
as "little more than an armed gang of Dinkas...killing,
looting and raping", (74) Prendergast's often stated concern
about human rights in 'God, Oil and Country' is two-faced
and hollow - something that can be said of the Clinton Administration's
Sudan policy in general.
The ICG has squandered an opportunity to greatly assist
the international community with an objective and credible
analysis of the Sudanese situation. 'God, Oil and Country'
was neither. This review has touched on only some of the
flaws in this book. There is much, much more that can be
said about 'God, Oil and Country'. There is also much more
that can be said about John Prendergast and his credibility
as a commentator on Sudan. It is, of course, for the International
Crisis Group to choose whom they employ and commission to
produce reports. That they chose unwisely in allowing Prendergast
to write anything on Sudan is for the reader to decide.
There is no doubt, however, that Prendergast incorporated
deeply questionable claims and disingenuous propaganda into
what was presumably hoped by the ICG to be an objective
and constructive perspective on the Sudanese conflict. In
so doing he continues to be part of the problem with analysing
Sudan and Sudan's problems.
Prendergast has been unable to cut away the dead hand of
propaganda or to accept that the American administration
he served so unquestioningly greatly exacerbated and artificially
prolonged the Sudanese conflict. Despite the fact that much
of Prendergast's commentary is predicated upon terrorism
and the war on terrorism, he fails, for example, to
address the central issue of what constitutes terrorism.
Prendergast states that "the SPLA recognises that it must
disrupt the government's control of oil, or at least prove
it has the capability to mount a substantial attack on the
oilfields". (75) It is clear that according to the United
States government definition of terrorism and international
terrorism, such attacks constitute terrorism. The relevant
definitions come from Title 22 of the United States Code,
Section 2656f (d): "The term terrorism means premeditated,
politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant
targets by subnational or clandestine agents, usually intended
to influence an audience." What is the difference in "politically
motivated" attacks on "noncombatant" American oil workers
and installations, and the SPLA's "politically motivated"
attacks on "noncombatant" Canadian oil workers and installations?
The Bush Administration seems to be committed to a peaceful
solution to the Sudanese conflict. It is a policy in marked
contrast to that of the Clinton Administration, the full
ineptitude of whose regarding Sudan is being revealed for
all to see. President Bush must show leadership, particularly
in challenging the propaganda that still surrounds Sudan.
He would be well advised to pay no regard to this thinly
disguised apology for a failed policy presented by Prendergast
and the International Crisis Group.
1 See, John Prendergast, 'Crisis Response: Humanitarian
Band-Aids in Sudan and Somalia', Pluto Press, London, 1997,
2 John Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country: Changing the
Logic of War in Sudan', International Crisis Group, Africa
Report No. 39, Brussels, January 2002.
3 Letter from Hon. Cynthia McKinney to U.S. President William
Jefferson Clinton, 31 August 1999, available at http//:www.africa2000.com/UGANDA/mckinney.html
4 "Sierra Leone, the last Clinton betrayal: Where Angels
Fear to Tread", 'The New Republic', 24 July 2000.
5 "Sierra Leone, the last Clinton betrayal: Where Angels
Fear to Tread", 'The New Republic', 24 July 2000.
6 See David Hoile, 'Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration's
Sudan Policy 1993-2000', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs
Council, London, 2000 (available at www.espac.org).
See also articles such as "Sierra Leone, the Last Clinton
Betrayal: Where Angels Fear to Tread", 'The New Republic',
24 July 2000; Michael Kelly, "U.S. Handiwork in Sierra Leone",
'The Washington Post', 19 July 2000.
7 See, for example, Sudan's normalisation of relations with
the European Union: "EU to Resume Financial Aid to Sudan
After Decade-Long Break", News Article by Agence France
Presse, 30 January 2002; and "EU Seeks to Renew Dialogue
with Sudan Broken Off in 1996", News Article by Agence France
Press, 10 November 1999. In 2001, for example, Sudan also
held the presidency of both the regional Intergovernmental
Authority on Development as well as the Community of Sahel-Saharan
States (COMESSA) a body which brings together eleven north
African states. concerning this issue." In 2002 Sudan was
picked by the Organisation of African Unity to represent
Africa on the UN Security Council (this was ultimately defeated
by American pressure).
8 'Carter, Others Say US Has Faltered in Africa', 'The Boston
Globe', 8 December 1999.
9 'CARE Seeks Political Fix in Sudan', 'Atlanta
Journal-Constitution', 7 October 1999.
10 'Ex-President Opposes Policy of Aiding
Khartoum's Foes', 'The Washington Times', 25 September 1997.
11 'US Official Warns of War in Africa', News Article by
Associated Press, 20 October, 1999 at 22:52 EDT. See, also,
'Where is Clinton's "African Renaissance"', The Wisdom Fund
'News & Views', 31 January 1999, http://www.twf.org/News/Y1999/0131-AfricaRen.html
12 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op. cit., p.xvi.
13 "SPLA Plays Down Deal on Referendum in southern Sudan',
News Article by BBC, 7 May 1998
14 "Referendum Agreed at Sudan Peace Talks",
News Article by BBC World, 7 May 1998
15 "The United States and the Nicaraguan Revolution",
The National Security Archives', at http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/niessayx.htm
16 For a critique of this body, see, for example, 'Partisan
and Hypocritical: The United States Commission for International
Religious Freedom and Sudan', The European-Sudanese Public
Affairs Council, London, April 2000.
17 "In '96, Sudan Offered to Arrest bin Laden", 'The International
Herald Tribune', 4 October 2001; "Resentful West Spurned
Sudan's Key Terror Files", 'The Observer' (London), 30 September
2001; "US Rejected Sudanese Files on al-Qaeda", 'The Financial
Times' (London), 30 November 2001; and David Rose, "The
Osama Files", 'Vanity Fair', January 2002.
18 "US Missed Three Chances to Seize Bin Laden", 'The Sunday
Times' (London), 6 January 2002.
19 See, for example, "Sudan's Angle: How Clinton
Passed up an Opportunity to Stop Osama bin Laden", 'The
Wall Street Journal Europe', 8 October 2001; "Shame on Clinton
- Again", 'The Washington Times', 8 December 2001.
20 The Independent (London), 17 September 1993.
21 Donald Petterson, 'Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict
and Catastrophe', Westview Books, Boulder, 1999, p.69.
22 See, "Decision to Strike Factory in Sudan Based Partly
on Surmise", 'The Washington Post', 21 September 1998; and
"Sudan Attack Blamed on US Blunders", 'The Times' (London),
22 September 1998.
23 See, "More Doubts Rise Over Claims for U.S. Attack",
'The Wall Street Journal' (New York), August 28,
1998; "Sudan to Allow U.N. to Investigate Any Alleged Chemical-Arm
Site", 'The Wall Street Journal' (New York), October 16,
1998; "U.S. Should Admit Its Mistake in Sudan Bombing",
'The Wall Street Journal' (New York), May 20, 1999. It is
surprising to see it subsequently publish unsubstantiated
claims of Sudanese involvement in chemical weapons.
24 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op. cit., p.79.
25 'Absent at Conference, Sudan is Still Talking With U.S.',
'The Washington Post', 17 March 2000.
26 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op. cit., xii.
27 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op.
28 Sir Robert Ffolkes was quoted in "'Sudan',
A Special International Report", 'The Washington Times',
10 July 2001.
29 "Anti-Slavery Drive in War-Torn Sudan Provokes Response
Critics Say Buyback Boost Market", 'The Washington Times',
25 May 2000.
30 Alex de Waal, "Sudan: Social Engineering, Slavery and
War", in 'Covert Action Quarterly', Spring 1997.
31 Peter Verney, 'Slavery in Sudan', Sudan Update and Anti-Slavery
International, London, May 1997.
32 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op.
33 Ambassador John Harker, 'Human Security
in Sudan: The Report of a Canadian Assessment Mission',
Prepared for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ottawa, January
34 See, for example, 'The Reality of "Slave
Redemption" in Sudan', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs
Council, London, March 2001 (available at www.espac.org).
35 "Aid group tries to break Sudan slavery
chain", News Article by Reuters on July 11, 1999 at 23:40:58.
36 "Slave 'Redemption' Won't Save Sudan", 'The Christian
Science Monitor', 26 May 1999.
37 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op. cit., xii.
38 John Ryle and Georgette Gagnon, "Report
of an Investigation in Oil Development, Conflict and Displacementin
Western Upper Nile, Sudan", Ottawa, October 2001.
39 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement Claims Releases
Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post '(Toronto), 19 April
40 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 has 45 years experience as an analyst
and is the author of 'Aerospace Reconnaissance', (published
by Brasseys in 1997). Mr Oxlee is a member of the Royal
Aeronautical Society and the Institute of Expert Witnesses.He
lectured at the United Kingdom School of Photographic Interpretation
for six years.
41 'Talisman Energy Says Study Disproves Sudan Allegations',
'Dow Jones Newswire', 18 April 2001.
42 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement
Claims Releases Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post' (Toronto),
19 April 2001.
43 'Talisman Fights Back on Sudan Displacement
Claims Releases Aerial Images', 'The Financial Post '(Toronto),
19 April 2001.
44 "Propaganda War Over Sudanese Oil Displacements",
afrol.com, 29 March 2001, http://www.afrol.com/News2001/sud006_oil_displace2.htm
46 See, for example, 'Rag-tag Rebels Fight for Sudan's Oil
Riches',News Article by Reuters on 14 February 2000.
47 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op. cit., p.193.
48 John Ryle and Georgette Gagnon, "Report of an Investigation
in Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western
Upper Nile, Sudan", Ottawa, October 2001.
49 'The Economist', 29 August 1998.
50 'Activists in Sudan Fear Loss of Western Oil Firms' Influence',
'The Washington Post', 24 June 2001.
51 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op.
52 "Southern Sudan Division Still an Election Issue", 'Africa
Now', April 1982, pp.53-54
53 See, 'Situation of Human Rights in the Sudan', United
Nations General Assembly, A/55/37a, New York, 11 September
54 'Growing friction in rebel-held southern
Sudan', News Article by BBC, 9 June 1999.
55 Prendergast, 'Crisis Response: Humanitarian
Band-Aids in Sudan and Somalia', op. cit., p.57.
56 Ibid, p.56.
57 Ibid, p.28.
58 Ibid, p.57.
59 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op.cit., p.18.
60 'Africa Confidential', 15 November 1996
61 Prendergast, 'Crisis Response: Humanitarian
Band-Aids in Sudan and Somalia', op. cit., p.77.
62 Eva Gold, 'The US Encirclement of Nicaragua',
NARMIC, Philadelphia, 1986, p.17. Gold states there was
an additional $400 million in military assistance from the
63 "The United States and the Nicaraguan Revolution",
The National Security Archives', at http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/niessayx.htm
64 'Africa Confidential', 15 November 1996
65 'Misguided Relief to Sudan', Editorial, 'The New York
Times', 6 December 1999.
67 'Sudan Rebel Says U.S. Food Aid Will Help', News Article
by Reuters on 9 December 1999 at 11:42:44.
68 'Interview - Sudan Rebel Says U.S. Food
Aid Will Help', News Article by Reuters on 9 December 1999
69 'Misguided Relief to Sudan', Editorial, 'The New York
Times', 6 December 1999.
70 'Aid for Sudan Ending Up With SPLA: Relief
Workers', News Article by Agence France Presse on 21 July
71 Prendergast, 'Crisis Response: Humanitarian Band-Aids
in Sudan and Somalia', op. cit., p 77.
72 Prendergast, 'Crisis Response: Humanitarian
Band-Aids in Sudan
and Somalia', op. cit., p.57.
73 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op. cit., p.18.
74 'The Economist', March 1998.
75 Prendergast, 'God, Oil and Country', op.