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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Sudan: Oil and War

Sudan: Oil and War
Date distributed (ymd): 991009
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains an urgent action bulletin from the Canadian Inter-Church Coalition on Africa, calling for protest against investments by Talisman, a Canadian company, in oil in Sudan. It also contains excerpts from a recent update on the conflict in Sudan from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

UAB 1999/#3, September 20, 1999

Inter-Church Coalition on Africa,
129 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 1N5
Tel: 416-927-1124; Fax:416-927-7554
e-mail:; Web:

Sudan, Oil, Crimes Against Humanity...and Canada

Dear friends,

Despite repeated appeals by Canadian churches and their Sudanese church partners, and many Canadian NGOs, the Government of Canada has failed to take action against Talisman Energy Inc., a Canadian company that has invested $1 billion to help the National Islamic Front Government of Sudan to develop Sudan's oil reserves. Why is Canadian involvement in Sudan's oil development program an issue? Talisman's investment in Sudan will effectively help the Sudanese government, an illegal regime that came to power in a military coup, wage a war that relentlessly, systematically and terrifyingly effectively targets civilians.

Following is a list of reasons why the Talisman-Sudanese regime business partnership is a catastrophic liability for the Sudanese people and a compelling indictment of the Government of Canada for its failure, if not refusal, to rein in Talisman.

  1. Talisman's legal business partner, the NIF regime, is one of the world's worst violators of human rights. International human rights agencies and the UN Commission on Human Rights have accumulated volumes of carefully gathered evidence charging the Sudanese regime with acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity. Atrocities include engineered famine (by causing massive population displacements and banning international humanitarian food aid), aerial bombardment of civilian population centres, a scorched earth policy in the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan, the systematic rape of women as a weapon of war, and the encouragement of slavery.
  2. More than two million people, 90 percent of them innocent civilians, have died in Sudan's civil war since the latest phase began in 1983. Another 4.5 million have been displaced. Last year 2.6 million were brought to the brink of starvation largely because of the scorched earth policies of the Sudanese regime, and especially because the regime banned humanitarian relief agencies from reaching war-affected populations at a critical time. The numbers of war-related dead and displaced are staggering. And yet, Talisman chooses to continue as a partner in business with a regime that bears the bulk of responsibility for this chronicle of human misery and devastation.
  3. Moreover, the ownership of the oil reserves that Talisman is helping to develop is disputed. The oil fields lie in southern Sudan but are controlled by the central government in the north. The Sudanese regime's refusal to give the south a say in the development of the fields was one of the original causes of Sudan's 16 year civil war. By investing in Sudan under these circumstances, Talisman is exploiting the conflict -- perhaps the worst in the world today -- for financial gain.
  4. There are credible reports that the Sudanese regime has forcibly and violently removed populations from the oil producing regions, including concessions owned by Talisman, to make the oil fields secure for foreign companies. Such action would violate the provisions of Protocol II of the Geneva Convention, and constitutes a war crime under international law. The significance of such a violation can hardly be overstated.
  5. Oil will give the regime an enormous military advantage over regional populations fighting for a say in the development of their own natural resources and their right of self-determination. After decades of exploitation and abuse from successive northern governments, southern Sudanese in particular wish to decide for themselves, through a democratic process, whether they want to remain in a united Sudan or form an independent country. The Sudanese regime is determined, through violent means, to deny them this choice.
  6. Oil revenues can be used to buy new weapons to increase the regime's comparative advantage on the battlefield. It desperately needs these funds; the war is costing it in excess of $1 million a day. Several months ago Hassan al-Turabi, the most influential member of the NIF government, declared publicly that oil revenues made possible by Talisman and other foreign companies would be used to build factories for missiles and tanks.
  7. Talisman and other foreign oil companies working in Sudan will provide the regime with free oil. This will save the regime $400 million a year in oil imports, thus freeing up additional resources for the war effort. The oil kept for domestic use can be refined into fuel for military use in Sudanese refineries, including for planes that regularly bomb civilian population centres. There are reports that oil from Talisman's wells has already been processed for military purposes.
  8. Oil is a major disincentive to the NIF government to negotiate in good faith in the ongoing regional peace process managed by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The IGAD talks are based on a Declaration of Principles which addresses the two key issues in the conflict, the right of self-determination and a secular constitution. Oil revenues will bolster the Sudanese regime's confidence to try to either win the war outright, which would have catastrophic consequences for civilians, or force an unjust peace on the south.

The oil is now flowing! As of August 1999, oil from southern Sudan began flowing through a 1600 km pipeline to the international export market. Much of the oil comes from wells drilled by Talisman, which also financed construction of the pipeline. Already the regime has bought 50 tanks from Poland and there are reports of additional new weapons purchases. Predictions that oil development would result in an intensification of the war now seem to be coming true.

Talisman doesn't seem to care

Talisman seems driven only by the promise of huge profits. Canadian churches and NGOs have on several occasions engaged Talisman in dialogue about the potentially harmful impact of its investments in Sudan. Talisman has not only demonstrated a lack of cooperation, it has been dismissive and has displayed a shocking disregard for the overwhelming body of reports citing atrocities in Sudan. It has called the allegations of human rights abuses made by the UN Commission on Human Rights and reputable human rights agencies "lurid and exaggerated." It defends its presence in Sudan by declaring itself to be a benevolent purveyor of Western values, and says it is providing for the economic development of all of Sudan. But these self-serving claims ignore Talisman's role in the oil-driven devastation that is so concentrated in the south.

Now that the pipeline is built and the oil flowing, there is even less incentive for Talisman to heed its critics. Clearly, Talisman has placed profits before people in the most cynical of ways, with terribly destructive implications for tens of thousands of Sudanese women and children, who make up 90 percent of the casualties of the war in Sudan. The oil now flowing through the pipeline, financed by a Canadian firm, is tainted with the blood of innocent Sudanese.

Whither the Canadian government?

All the Canadian government has done about Talisman is to warn the company about the dangers its personnel may face by working in a war zone. It says it does not have the legislative tools to restrict Talisman's ability to operate in Sudan and hold it accountable for any role it plays in the direct or indirect violation of human rights and international law. This is not true. Research has shown that Canada does have the legal means to take action against Talisman. What is lacking is political will.

Canada is providing valuable support for a regional peace process for Sudan, which should be recognized. However, such support should not be accepted as a reason for inaction on Talisman. Oil development is a disincentive for the regime to talk peace at the IGAD table. It threatens to negate the usefulness of any support for the peace process. Clearly, Canada should adopt a dual policy of supporting peace initiatives while at the same time taking decisive steps to restrict Talisman's ability to further strengthen the Sudanese regime.

The weight of evidence suggests that Talisman is effectively complicit in crimes against humanity in Sudan, and presents the Government of Canada, and all shareholders in Talisman, with a clear moral imperative: act now to prevent Talisman from aggravating an already too costly civil war.

What You Can Do

Write a politely worded but firm letter to Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs:

  • Urge the Minister to utilize all available international mechanisms, and all domestic tools at Canada's disposal, to prevent Talisman from making it possible for the Sudanese government to intensify the civil war in Sudan and further violate the rights of Sudanese civilians. Urge the Minister not to wait for other countries to take action but to be pro-active and assertive in this regard.
  • Emphasize that Canadians will not allow their government to stand idly by while a Canadian company so callously disregards international human rights norms and standards and the lives of innocent Sudanese.
  • Urge the Minister to stop using the excuse of a lack of legal manouerverability and to muster the political will needed for Canada to take firm action against Talisman.
  • Urge the Minister to complement Canada's support of the peace process for Sudan with action against Talisman; otherwise (you can point out), Canada's support to the peace process may be negated.

Write to: Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lester B. Pearson Bldg., 125 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2; FAX: 613-996-3443

Send a copy of your letter to ICCAF (your letter can be mailed, faxed or e-mailed to Thank you for your attention.

ICCAF's Mission Statement

The Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (ICCAF) is a Canadian ecumenical forum rooted in the biblical prophetic tradition that calls for justice and peace for all people. It carries out specific and specialized work related to Africa that is of common concern to its member churches and their African partners. ICCAF's work includes research, analysis, advocacy, networking and education.

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SUDAN: IRIN News Briefs, 6 October 1999 (Excerpts)

[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

[Feedback: UN IRIN-CEA Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 ]

Egypt-Libya agree new steps in peace initiative

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and Libya's special representative for Africa, former foreign minister Ali Tureiki they had agreed on steps to implement a joint peace initiative for peace in Sudan. Reuters said they told reporters after a meeting in Cairo at the weekend contacts were underway to prepare for dialogue and both sides in the Sudanese conflict should abstain from anything likely to obstruct the peace initiative and from hostile media campaigns against each other.

Moussa said a suitable atmosphere should prevail before a preparatory meeting in advance of an inter-Sudanese reconciliation conference could take place. That meeting was to have opened in Cairo last month but the SPLM refused to agree, saying it preferred to have mediation by the East African regional grouping, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), news agencies reported. Moussa said there was no time to waste in the effort to achieve peace in Sudan, whether through the Libyan-Egyptian initiative or the parallel IGAD process, and that he had contacted Kenya - currently president of IGAD - in order to coordinate the two sets of talks.

SPLM awaiting next round of IGAD talks

While an IGAD conference on regional capacity-building for conflict prevention began in Nairobi on Monday, the last Sudanese peace talks under the IGAD process broke down in July without a breakthrough. Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN on Tuesday that he soon hoped to meet Daniel Mboya, Kenya's special envoy to the IGAD peace talks on Sudan - recently returned to Nairobi after discussions in Khartoum - to hear when the next round might take place. ...

SPLM asks Mbeki's advice on "double apartheid"

Meanwhile, SPLM leader John Garang said at the weekend, after talks in Johannesburg with South African President Thabo Mbeki, that if the Khartoum government and opposition groups did not reach an agreement soon, the country would collapse totally. "We are now living in a double apartheid era, based on race and religion. Our struggle is for liberation, basic human rights and equality for women," the South African Press Agency (SAPA) quoted him as saying.

Sources close to Mbeki said that, while South Africa had not taken any concrete steps in the peace process and it was primarily a Sudanese responsibility to resolve the country's problems, it was supporting efforts to "promote peace resolutions", SAPA reported. Sudan was expected to feature prominently on South Africa's foreign policy agenda once the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo was resolved, the report added.

NDA to seek common framework for political dialogue

Garang also said in South Africa on Saturday that the Sudanese opposition, under the umbrella National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which groups northern opposition parties and the SPLM based in the south, would meet in either Uganda or Egypt this month to come up with a common framework for any future negotiations with the government, news organisations reported. "We will be looking at our overall political strategy for our country. We will be putting together a policy for any negotiations with Khartoum. We will also review our military strategies," AP news agency quoted him as saying. Meanwhile, Reuters news agency on Monday reported key NDA member and Umma Party leader Sadeq al-Mahdi as having said - after talks with senior Egyptian officials in Cairo on Saturday - that the prospect for reconciliation talks had suffered an undisclosed setback.

Crackdown on rebels after oil pipeline attack

Prosecutor-General Abdel Nasr Wonan has formally asked Egypt to extradite NDA military chief Abdel Aziz Khalid - in addition to spokesman Abdel Rahman Said, whose extradition Sudan had previously requested - on terrorism charges related to the 19 September rebel bombing of Sudan's new oil pipeline near Atbara, responsibility for which was claimed by the NDA, the official SUNA news agency reported on Tuesday. Security forces were also reported to have searched the Sudanese homes of resident and exiled opposition Umma Party leaders in connection with the pipeline blast, including that of party leader and former prime minister al-Mahdi.

Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail also asked the international community during his address to the UN General Assembly last week to take punitive action against SPLM leader John Garang, similar to the sanctions against UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in Angola, in order to pressure him into "meaningful participation" in the peace process. He said Sudan was committed to a comprehensive ceasefire in all parts of southern Sudan "for humanitarian reasons and to prepare the atmosphere for peace talks", and hoped other parties would respond so that "the process of separation of the forces and monitoring of the ceasefire could begin", Sudanese national radio reported.

President promises "special consideration" for south

Meanwhile, President Omar el-Bashir told the National Assembly that the proceeds of oil exports would go towards building the country's infrastructure, "with special consideration for southern states and other war-affected areas", according to an address broadcast on national television on Monday. He said government policy would focus on electricity, irrigation, roads, capacity-building, scientific research and social programmes, with special attention to be devoted to the south and other war-affected areas.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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