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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 15:09 GMT
'Sudan oil funding war'

By Africa Reporter Virginia Gidley-Kitchin

The Sudanese Human Rights Group has appealed to foreign companies investing in Sudan's fledgling oil industry to link their involvement to democratic reforms and human rights.

The call follows mounting criticism of Talisman, a Canadian multinational that is the main Western company helping Sudan to extract its oil.

If there is more revenue from the oil industy, definitely it will be used in the war
Ghazi Suleiman
The Khartoum-based organisation stopped short of urging Talisman to pull out of Sudan.

Its chairman, Ghazi Suleiman, said that as a Sudanese national, he would love to see more foreign investment in his country, but only if it were linked to democratic reforms and human rights.

He said these had not improved since Sudan first began exporting oil in August last year.

Speaking during a visit to London, Ghazi Suleiman predicted that the oil would fuel the long-running civil war between the Islamic-backed government in the north and the mainly Christian rebels in the south.

Oil pipe Sudan began exporting oil last year
"Today, the oil industry is a small oil industry, and the funds available for the Sudan government are not enough," he said.

"But in future, if there is more investment and if there is more revenue from the oil industy, definitely it will be used in the war."

New arms purchase

Peter Verney of Sudan Update, an information service supported by humanitarian organisations, believes that is already happening.

After a lengthy study, he estimates that Sudan is currently earning between $500,000 and $1m a day from oil - substantial help for a government believed to be spending $1m each day on the war.

Mr Verney says the government has already bought weapons on the strength of its oil prospects.

He says it received a delivery of East European tanks and armoured cars late last year, the first time in a decade that it has bought weaponry from anywhere other than China.


The human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has other worries.

It is concerned about reports that thousands of Nuer tribespeople have been forced from their homes and many hundreds killed in parts of Unity state and western Upper Nile state around the pipeline.

The pipeline takes the oil from the Heglig oilfield, which straddles Sudan's north-south divide.

This alleged operation against the Nuer was presumably carried out for security reasons - the southern rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, has declared the pipeline a target - and rebel rebel groups have nevertheless already attacked the pipeline twice.

In the light of all this, pressure on Talisman is mounting.

Two American pension funds have threatened to sell their holdings in the company because of its role in Sudan, and the Canadian government has threatened to penalise Talisman unless it helps to end the civil war.

Sudan-watchers are eagerly awaiting the government's report on links between the oil industry and human rights abuses in Sudan, which is due out next week.

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See also:
17 Jan 00 |  Africa
Sudan's decades of war
02 Feb 00 |  Africa
Sudan 'committed' to Uganda peace deal

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