China puts '700,000 troops' on Sudan alert : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sunday 27 August 2000

China puts '700,000 troops' on Sudan alert By Christina Lamb, Diplomatic Correspondent

TENS of thousands of Chinese troops and prisoners forced to work as security guards have been moved into Sudan. Col Johnny Garang: the SPLA has recently advanced to within 10 miles of the oilfields in the Upper Nile region They have been sent in preparation for a big offensive against southern rebels to try to bring to an end one of Africa's longest-running conflicts, according to Western counter-terrorism officials.The Chinese have been brought in by aircraft and ship, ostensibly to guard Sudan's increasingly productive oilfields in which the China National Petroleum Corporation is a leading partner.

Col Johnny Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has managed in recent weeks to advance within 10 miles of the oilfields in the Upper Nile region, causing the country's Islamic regime to activate emergency plans drawn up with allies whose interests in the oil project are directly under threat.

These plans aim to crush the rebels from the mainly Christian and animist south and bring to an end the 17-year civil war that has cost an estimated two million lives. Since oil production began last year arms have been arriving from Libya, Qatar and China. The ruling National Islamic Front (NIF) is spending #300 million a year of its oil revenues on weapons, according to western intelligence sources.

The NIF denies this charge but last month Gen Mohamed Osman Yassin, the Sudanese army spokesman, told student conscripts that "thanks to our growing oil industry" Sudan is now "manufacturing ammunition, mortars, tanks and armoured personnel carriers". The SPLA captured a group of Chinese in an attack last week.

An internal document from the Sudanese military said that as many as 700,000 Chinese security personnel were available for action. Three flights a week have been taking the Chinese into Sudan since work on the oilfields started three years ago. Diplomats in Khartoum, however, cast doubt on the numbers.

Baroness Caroline Cox, the leading human rights campaigner who has just returned from Sudan where she helped to free 353 slaves captured by NIF soldiers, yesterday accused western governments of turning a blind eye to what is going on because of their own economic interests in the oil.

She warned: "If with foreign help the NIF regime crushes all opposition we will have entrenched in the heart of Africa a militant Islamist regime aimed at spreading terrorism throughout the continent. It's unbelievably serious for the future of democracy in Africa and could happen in the next few weeks."

She was particularly critical of the British Government. Last month it welcomed the Sudanese foreign minister on a visit even although Sudan is still technically under United Nations sanctions that ban such visits, and officially is still regarded as a pariah state. She said: "The British Government has developed a complete cosy relationship to a regime which is raping, bombing and taking its people into slavery. It doesn't fit at all with our so-called ethical foreign policy, and there is no question the shift has come because of the oil."

Two British companies have won contracts to build pumping stations on the 1,000-mile pipeline from the Heglig oilfield, in the war-torn south, to the Red Sea. British oil companies have also discussed investing in the Sudanese oil industry, described in a Department of Trade and Industry pamphlet this year as "a tremendous opportunity".

The Canadian multi-national Talisman Energy, the main backer of the pipeline with the Chinese and Malaysians national oil companies, has faced public outcry over its involvement. Reports that thousands of civilians have been killed and driven from their homes in order to secure the oilfields have led North American consumers to boycott petrol stations, and pension funds to sell shares.

There has been so much criticism that America imposed economic sanctions on Sudan's oil enterprise. The mission was told that Talisman's contractual obligation more or less provides that the oilfield facilities can be used for military purposes. A UN rapporteur told the mission: "If oil companies don't know what's going on they're not looking over the fences of their compounds."

As fighting has escalated in recent months, the NIF has stepped up attacks on civilian targets. Yesterday Washington condemned the raids on civilian and relief targets including schools, hospitals and feeding stations. According to the SPLA, five such attacks took place last week, making it impossible for agencies to deliver aid.

A Western aid worker in southern Sudan said: "Everyone knows what is going on. We've all seen the Chinese being brought in and can only pray about what's going to happen next."

-- Martin Thompson (, August 27, 2000


August 17, 2000

Oil: the perpetual fuel of civil war in Sudan Lucie Senftova, Research Assistant,

More than one million people have died and millions have been forcibly displaced during the ongoing seventeen-year long civil war in Sudan. Suffering from extreme poverty, this largest African country began to export oil last year. Unfortunately, the trade in oil has allowed the Sudanese government to continue the war and disregard negotiations. And the oil will allow the war to continue for a long time to come unless something is done to limit the diversion of revenue from the oil trade.

Sudan is a former British colony that achieved independence in 1956. But even as it became independent, a civil war was underway, one that has continued with only short intervals of peace in 1972 and 1983. The war began in the south, an area populated by black Africans following mostly Christian or animist beliefs. The Southerner's People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has challenged the Sudanese government, dominated by Muslim Arabs living in northern Sudan, over self-governance in the southern region. Given the potential revenue from lucrative oil fields discovered in southern Sudan in 1978, the Sudanese government refuses to grant the rebels autonomy. The start of profitable oil export activity in August 1999 has simply reinforced the Sudanese government's position with respect to SPLA.

In addition to being an important source of foreign exchange for the Sudanese government, oil revenue enables the government to buy more and newer weapons for its military. The pipeline, the longest in Africa, brings oil from the south to a terminal on the Red Sea coast, from which it is exported by ship. But the pipeline is an easy target for SPLA attacks and has been blown up several times by the rebels.

In one sense, oil in Sudan is a multinational issue. Companies such as Petronas (Malaysia), Talisman (Canada), Agip (Italy), Total Fina (France), Elf-Aquitaine (France), OMW (Austria), Royal Dutch Schell (The Netherlands), Gulf Petroleum Company (Qatar), National Iranian Gas Company, and China National Petroleum Corporation operate in Sudan. Recently, Amnesty International accused these companies of "turning a blind eye" to war atrocities carried out by the Sudanese government. The Canadian government has also published a report warning the Canadian multinational company Talisman that it would impose sanctions against the company if it did not better monitor the Sudanese government's use of revenues from the oil trade.

It is very difficult to uncover public documents about the flow of arms between the Sudanese government and other states. In a report released two years ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailed information on the arms trade obtained from ex-Sudanese military officers. HRW reported that Sudanese government forces receive weapons from China, Iran, Iraq, the Russian Federation, former Soviet Republics, and former Warsaw Pact states. Some of these countries sold arms to the Sudanese government in exchange for loans to be paid by future oil exports. Several Sudanese officers also claimed that they saw Iraqi pilots participate in combat against the SPLA. France is believed to have provided technical assistance, but there is no evidence that it sold arms to the Sudanese government.

Current U.S. policy toward Sudan is "to isolate the Government of Sudan; to counter the threat it poses to the United States, its neighbors, and its own people; and to press for fundamental change in its policies" [Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Hill Summit on Sudan, November 9, 1999]. Since 1993 Sudan has been on the U.S. State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism. In November 1997 President Clinton announced an extensive embargo against Sudan. One year later, in retaliation for attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the U.S. launched a cruise missile attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory, believing it was producing materials for chemical weapons. A U.S. State Department official confirmed that the United States does not sell arms to Sudan and does not buy Sudanese oil. However, the U.S. does provide food assistance to the rebels in the south.

But as the international community has seen all too often, sanctions frequently have negative consequences for the general population while having no effect in changing a government's policy. In Sudan, poverty is widespread, and starvation and continued violence decimate the population. To help address Sudan's real problems, the United States and the international community should encourage a dialogue between the two sides and support measures to help get food and other aid to noncombatants on both sides.

With concerted multinational efforts, the civil war in Sudan may one day be resolved. But until then, governments and multinational companies have an obligation to promote efforts to prevent the diversion of oil revenues for war. This is an essential first step in moving both sides from the battlefield to the negotiating table.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 28, 2000.

This is really confusing. Whose side is who on?

-- QMan (, August 28, 2000.

I don't begin to believe this. 700,000 Chinese? In Africa? At the height of the Gulf War we only had 300,000 troops in the Middle East. This is an overwhelming logistics problem. If this is true we should all be really worried that the Chinese will soon have armed forces in Taiwan, and California, about any time they wish.

-- Wayward (, August 28, 2000.

I don't begin to believe this story. Period.

-- Loner (, August 28, 2000.

Two things concern me. One, the story comes from the London Telegraph, and I have never seen an "off the wall" type story printed in that newspaper. Secondly, there was a story here in the US recently about Chinese young men betwen the ages of 19 and 26 who were being smuggled into the US via the Virgin Islands. The official on the island said it was really strange, for years young Chinese men have suddenly shown up there,(he couldn't even figure out how they arrived).They then turn themselves into the authorities who are required to call the US govt. immigration people. The govt. then gives these men a "free" ride to a place in Louisana via military plane, where a lawyer meets them and they are released into the population...where they disappear. Young, Chinese military age men? Coming here for years. Also, the report said these were not poor men dressed in rags, they were dressed well, some of them in suits carrying brief cases. Never women, never old people or kids, only young, prime-aged men (for years, no less). I will agree the logistics of moving 700,000 men into a country are staggering never mind the equipment needed to house them. But, what if they were added to the population over a period of years and blended in, awaiting orders; is this conceivable?

-- meg davis (, August 28, 2000.

I had second thoughts about posting this story. There have been quite a few Sudanese stories lately. Mostly about refugees and food aid. Plus a story about it being dangerous for americans to travel to Sudan. I also considered the source of the article. The Telegraph is not the National Inquirer. Also if you look a a map Sudan is across the Red sea from Saudi Arabia.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 28, 2000.

Just trying for a little history on the original story. Most of this fits in the oil category. Wondering what prisoners and security guards have to with anything.

Tuesday 28 March 2000

Sudan oilfields reignite civil war By W F Deedes in Western Upper Nile, Sudan SUDAN'S forgotten war, in which two million have died and four million have been internally displaced, has been cruelly reignited by conflict around the oilfields of Upper Nile.

With grim satisfaction, the local commander of "rebel" forces showed me the instrument panel of a Russian helicopter gunship recently shot down by his men. It symbolised, he claimed, the terror campaign being waged by Sudanese forces against the local population in defence of Sudan's burgeoning oilfields. After travelling around the Western Upper Nile region for a few days, I can report that the claim has substance.

In these oilfields, Talisman Energy Inc, Canada's largest independent oil and gas company, owns 25 per cent of five oil blocks in the Heglig-Pariang area of South Kordofan and western Upper Nile. It has been in the business since August 1998. The other principal participants are Malaysia and China. To secure the increasingly productive oilfields from attack countless civilians have been killed and thousands more have been driven from their homes.

Disturbed by criticism of Canada's place in all this, Lloyd Axworthy, its Foreign Minister, recently sent a mission to Sudan to assess the situation. Its report, completed last month, seems to confirm assertions by United Nations rapporteurs that oil is prolonging Sudan's agony.

The war in the Sudan is Africa's longest-running conflict, pitting the Islamic government in Khartoum against the south's mainly Christian rebel movement. After some 40 years of intermittent fighting a truce has failed to bring a lasting peace.

Concern about oilfield security "has brought displacement, pacification and insecurity to the eastern part of Unity State/Western Upper Nile", the Canadian report concludes. It has intensified fighting not just between the government and "rebels", but also among the Southerners themselves, "which has magnified human suffering".

The mission was told that Talisman's contractual obligation more or less provides that the oilfield facilities can be used for military purposes. Talisman's version is that these are "defensive purposes". It is an embarrassing situation for Canada as the atmosphere in the region is poisonous. Not only has there been killing and massive displacement around here, there have also been many abductions of women and children.

"Abduction" is the word preferred by the UN, required by the government of Sudan, and used in the Canadian mission's report, for slavery. The UN Children's Fund told me that Christian Solidarity International freed 2,035 slaves in July, bringing to 11,000 the total number freed since 1995. CSI pay #35 to Arab middlemen who buy the slaves back from their masters in the north.

Many, including Unicef, are critical of CSI's transactions, reckoning that they fuel the slave trade. There are believed to be a further 15,000 women and children in this form of captivity. I felt intense pity for the displaced people I met, homeless, hungry, in wretched condition, many of their small children in poor health. I felt also astonishment that a country of Canada's standing should be entangled in such a denial of human rights.

As a local official from Nhialdiu, the first village I visited, had observed to Canada's mission: "Civilians, cattle, children have been killed, homes burned. We don't think we are included in the human rights of the world." Even relief flights run by Operation Lifeline Sudan have been banned in the area since last summer.

What, one then wondered, has been the attitude of Talisman to all this? Dr James Buckee, the British-born president and chief executive of Talisman, wrote to reassure Mr Axworthy: "Corporate ethics has always been a strong internal priority at Talisman." The mind reels.

But the Canadian mission reports a UN rapporteur as saying: "If oil companies don't know what's going on, they're not looking over the fences of their compounds." At first, Talisman's line was that the oilfield area has never known permanent habitation due to flooding. Later the line changed. The mission reports: "For Talisman, so very much seems to be explained as 'merely an inter-tribal problem'.

"But displacement has gone on and is still going on, and in Ruweng County (where the population is half what it was) it is hard to deny that displacement is now, and has been for some time, because of oil."

Mr Axworthy has promised financial assistance for a local body dealing with slavery, better monitoring of the human rights situation, and a new office in Khartoum to assist the peace process. He also urges Talisman to put its house in order. It seems unlikely that matters will end there. For very big stakes are attached to these oilfields. Since the oil began to flow to Port Sudan last August, the economic outlook for Khartoum has been transformed

-- Martin Thompson (, August 28, 2000.

URL for above ac=000118613908976&rtmo=kNCCC7kp&atmo=rrrrrrvs&pg=/et/00/3/28/wsud28.h tml

-- Martin Thompson (, August 28, 2000.

Some more background at:

Activists Focus on Canada

United Church of Canada

Not a pretty picture. :(

-- Rachel Gibson (, August 28, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ