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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Is all fair in war?
In their war against the Sudanese government, rebel forces are increasingly targeting oil installations.

In recent weeks pipelines have been blown up, and oil companies' property seized.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army claims that revenue from oil is being used to finance the government's war effort. The government says that it is the ordinary Sudanese who will suffer.

Neighbouring countries, like Kenya, also have a stake, in that they would like to import cheap Sudanese oil.

What do you think? Is it legitimate to attack a country's top revenue-earning industry when fighting a civil war?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Targeting oil installations is not an ideal way to win or resolve a 18-year old conflict. The Sudanese government has agreed to share revenues with the south, by establishing a unified account for oil revenues overseas that could benefit both North and South. Therefore, sparing the oil installations from war-related cruelties could indicate how seriously committed John Garang is to any sort of future development in Sudan after any comprehensive settlement.

It is every Sudanese hope that John Garang, Omer Al-Bashir and all the concerned parties to the upcoming peace settlement to be serious in the proposed national reconciliation dialogue. The ordinary Sudanese is fed up with all the sorts of destruction and want to lead a normal peaceful life with decent access to the basic human needs. Enough is enough.
Adam Yahya, Sudan

Peace and justice always come with a price

Alphonse Osisi, Nigeria
As far as I am concerned, the rebel action is justified. If attacking oil installations is the only way to make the Sudanese government and the big oil companies see reason and sue for peace and more importantly justice, then let the attacks continue. Peace and justice always come with a price.
Alphonse Osisi, Nigeria

Without oil money the government of Sudan would probably be far more earnest in its peace negotiation. The government of Sudan was the first to bring violence to the oilfields by arming militias to depopulate the area. The inaction of the SPLA to protect the people and assets of Southern Sudan was a valid criticism of the SPLA. The attacks on the oilfields are a part of the responsibility of SPLA in its struggle to obtain power in the context of the Sudanese nation state.
Stephen Siemens, U.S.A.

The Government of Sudan is using the oil revenues to escalate the war. The use of the short-range tactical missile in a domestic conflict was unheard of before. The SPLA will restore the hopes and aspiration of the people of Southern Sudan by concentrating on oil field front and stopping the abuse of this resource.

It is high time the western world takes concrete measures to stop the genocide in Sudan, instead of indulging in the oil exploration which is exterminating the people of Southern Sudan.
John Lotara, London, UK

If anyone says that the oil fields should not be targeted by the Southerners, I will forgive him because he doesn't see the suffering of we Southern Sudanese people, and because he doesn't miss both his parents, brothers and sister in such war, but for me who lost both his parents, brothers, uncles and very close people to me, can say with "HIGH VOICE WITHOUT FEAR" that let the oil fields be the target, as we have been suffering for more than four decades, then why to fear suffering, as all of us were born dead!
W. R. G. Nyirigwa, Southern Sudanese / Cairo

I think it is very legitimate to attack a country's top revenue-earning industry when fighting a civil war, as we Southerners has suffered a lot and if we can touch the most effective heart of the radical Islamic government. We need not to hesitate but we have to hit hard, because what is going on in South is not just a mere civil war but a genocide and ethnic cleansing, as the government is waging the war of free land, they do not want we black Africans but they need only the land. So, if we have the chance of hitting the oil field there is no hesitation.
Watts R. G. Nyirigwa, South Sudanese

As we have seen civil wars in all parts of the world, things that are believed to be the back bone of the government are being destroyed as a measure to weaken the strength of the blows that the it can deliver against the other party. At this moment oil is the main export of the country that brings tons of currency for the country and an import of tons of weapons, so I don't see any reason why the rebels shouldn't try to cut the oil lines off of the export line.
Genene, USA

To Chiedozie, you say that "western hypocrisy is exposed" yet the west has nothing to do with this - no official statements have been made to my knowledge. The fact that one group of Africans is attacking the economic resources of its own country is nothing to do with the west. This clear case of shooting oneself in the foot then blaming someone else may however explain why Africa is in such a mess.
Richard, UK

It is up to the SPLA to use any tactic as long as the war continues. This war has gone for a long time now. It is the most forgotten war on this planet. Targeting the oil installations could send a message to the West.
Obediah Chapfika, US

It is high time for both the Government of Sudan and the SPLA to work out a participatory power and wealth sharing agreements monitored by the international bodies, such as the UN and regional bodies such as the African Union or IGAD to say it proper. Sudanese people are very warm and friendly hosting many nationalities in their country and deserve a better tomorrow. Al Bashir and John Grang should work out a fair and just deal for their people to be able to enjoy the new found oil wealth. By the way, the oil is only a new factor of the conflict and stopping doesn't guarantee peace for the southerners. Targeting oil will only hurt more and thus escalate the conflict.
Aden Ali, Sudan

A non violent solution to Sudan's war between the government of Sudan and the SPLA rebels would be admirable. This has however failed time and again resulting to short periods of ceasefire followed by intense fighting.

If the SPLA can take hold of the oil fields, then Omar Al-Bashir and his oppressive regime will re-evaluate their stand against the people of southern Sudan. If Bush was as focused on international issues as Clinton was; this war would not linger longer. Clinton made sure that the plant for weapons of mass destruction was destroyed. Bush could implore same measures for the plight of the people of south Sudan.
Stephen Mbola, Kenya/USA

If we use the same argument then all of Sudan's infrastructure is a target!

Paul Timotivice, UK
If we use the same argument then all of Sudan's infrastructure is a target! Destruction brings nothing but misery to all people. The oil installations are owned by the Sudanese and thus should not be targeted in this futile and senseless conflict.
Paul Timotivice, UK

Once again Western hypocrisy is exposed. The West does not really care about people (especially black Africans) enough to hold back their greed.
Chiedozie, UK

Discovery of oil in Southern Sudan in 1976 has inflamed the greed of the North. Many observers said that the regime would declare the newly discovered wealth a national property. But instead they issued a decree announcing annexation of the area where the oil was discovered. I believed the SPLA has every right to attack oil installations
Akoi Jok, California, USA

Seek the negotiating table rather than the battlefield

Rashed Kwame Annan, Ghana
I was surprised recently when I watched a documentary on the civil war in Sudan. To see the suffering of the southern Sudanese was heart wrenching. This is my advice to my Black southern Sudanese brothers, I think you have an unwinnable war on your hands. Seek the negotiating table rather than the battlefield. You have the biggest casualties and you are only increasing your suffering.
Rashed Kwame Annan, Ghana

Oil revenues have always been used for ethnic cleansing and genocidal crimes against the Sudanese people. The oil companies' airstrips are used to facilitate military operations. The oil companies went to the extent of buying weapons for the GOS troops. These facts obviously make the oil installations legitimate war targets for the rebels and incriminate the oil companies for the heinous crimes committed by the GOS.
Hamouda Fath-el-Rahman, USA

They should abstain from attacking the natural resources of the country

Abu bakar Kamara, Malaysia
No matter whatever war the SPLA are launching against their portrayed enemy, be it a just war or not, they should abstain from attacking the natural resources of the country. They should realise that the world has civilised and war is now regarded as uncivilised. I advise both parties to stop this human suffering and go to round table for the betterment of their nation. Destruction is no longer regarded as a Revolution or Liberation but backwardness.
Abu bakar Kamara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

For any country where the government is not a representative of all tribes, there is bound to be some sort of unrest which will ultimately result in armed conflict. Once the path of destruction has been chosen, then all targets are legitimate for the end result is a destabilisation of the enemy.
"D", Guinea-Bissau

The oil in South Sudan is used to improve the economy of North Sudan only. The governments, which have been in power in Sudan, do not care about the people of south Sudan. This has been shown throughout the 45 years of independence. The only way to cripple this government is to destroy its only means of achieving economic stability. Until they accept that the people of South Sudan are entitled to the same rights as their brothers up North, there will be no peace and stability in the Sudan.
Kwai, South Sudan

The suffering of the Southern Sudanese people is to be stopped even if it requires US intervention

Ayaan, Somaliland
Sure, oil is a legitimate target. But can the SPLA do anything other than talk. The rebel group have been a rebel group since independence. What have they achieved? The answer is NOTHING. Then why on earth are they continuing a war which they will never win?
The suffering of the Southern Sudanese people is to be stopped even if it requires US intervention.
Ayaan, Somaliland

Where has the International Community been all the time the war has been on. Now that they have something to gain in the name of cheaper oil is when people turn their heads.
I agree to destroying all the pipelines for the continual exportation of oil will give the Sudanese government a better upper hand and obviously they shall do more in terms of harassing the southerners who have been suffering for the past 18 years.
Yugusuk Tongun, Sudan

It is nonsense to destroy any infrastructure of any kind. First of all the war between SPLA and the Sudanese government has been going on for the last 18-years and Sudan has started exploiting oil 2-years ago. So, how was the war financed for the previous 16-years? But targeting oil is not the solution for the problem in Sudan. It needs a political solution to stop the war in Sudan.
Kasay, USA

It's high time that people from the South united and fought for one goal

Gatwech Lok, Australia/S. Sudanese
It's definitely legitimate for the rebel force to target oil installations. We did go to war with Sudan government because of our identity, economic is the part of human lives and Sudan won't become a member of OPEC. There is no war without end; India was under British colony for 200 years and eventually achieved her independence through non-violent rule. It's high time that people from the South united and fought for one goal.
Gatwech Lok, Australia/S. Sudanese

The government of Sudan seems to like settling the conflict by war. Yes, the SPLA have the right to attack the oilfields because it is a war and war stops only when there is final agreement and rights.
Mohamed Elshowaya, USA, Sudanese

Oil: top revenue-earning industry? Earning for whom? The revenue from the oil industry either goes to the pockets of corrupt government officials or used by the GOS to buy arms to kill its own people. As for the ordinary people, all they get is more bombardment, scorched earth, slavery and genocide. Stopping the oil flow is therefore a blessing for the ordinary people of southern Sudan and a duty the SPLA.
Yasin Miheisi, UK

Who ever controls the oil in Sudan is the first and last one to have a say regarding the future of the country. It would be a grave mistake for the movement to remove oil production and installations from their prime targets.
Peter Yerkew Jual, Italy

It is a legitimate action for SPLA attacking the oil fields. I believe it's the only way to get the world and Sudanese government's attention to the plight and suffering of southern Sudanese people. The Sudanese government should abandon its Sharia law and slaving Christians. Other wise, the war won't stop.
Seifu Kassa, Ethiopia/USA

It's clear that the Sudanese government uses oil as one of the weapons to attack the SPLA and the innocent civilian population of the Sudan. Therefore, the SPLA should see to it that it destroys as many as possible of the enemy's men and arsenal, including the oil, which is used as a weapon by the Sudanese government.
Martin Modi, Sudan/USA

Any government that treats its minorities badly must know that it has a high price to pay at the next turn

Mairi Vuamai, Nimule, South Sudan
Any government that treats its minorities badly must know that it has a high price to pay at the next turn. When such a minority organises itself and rises up in the form of SPLA, its target is rarely outright military victory, but a slow but sure suffocation of the government's economic and developmental efforts with the aim of dragging the government to a negotiating table. In that respect the oil fields are legitimate targets as far as guerrilla warfare is concerned. Even the mighty Nato went for economic targets in Serbia.
Mairi Vuamai, Nimule, South Sudan

The whole principal of war, whether it is civil or conventional, is to make your enemy submit to you. This means destroying him economically as well as militarily. Any modern war is an example of this. And I'm guessing that indeed the oil revenue is being used for arms as is the case in most African countries.
Frank Cobain, South Africa

I strongly feel that the oil fields are legitimate targets for the Sudanese rebels. Didn't Nato employ similar tactics in Yugoslavia when it destroyed its economic infrastructure (even cigarette plants!)? What appals me is the willingness of global oil companies to invest in a country that has been responsible for the suffering of millions for so many years in Southern Sudan. Perhaps the oil companies could help by halting their operations until a peaceful solution can be found?
Anthony, Germany (UK)

The conflict in Sudan has been going on, on and off since independence. The SPLA is doing the right thing and finally drawing substantial international attention to their cause. I hope the oil hungry world will finally listen and Opec will reconsider any plans of accepting Sudan as member.
Auden Kaehler, France

The ordinary people have been suffering ever since war started

Henry Sufa Mpunga, Tanzania
Who are the ordinary Sudanese the Sudan Government is talking about? The ordinary people have been suffering ever since war started and this oil will make them suffer even more as the government uses the revenue to fuel war instead of talking peace. The SPLA are right and this tactic will make the government realise the importance of ending the war.
Henry Sufa Mpunga, Tanzania

Oil installations should be legitimate targets for military action. The companies involved should understand that while they are looking for profits in this war, we Southerners are seeking nothing but our very survival. Let the oil companies go prospecting for oil back in Canada, Sweden, China and Malaysia. Enough is enough.
Daniel Hagillih, USA

When you make an omelette, you have to break eggs. When you are in a war of liberation, you cannot let the colonisers get away with sucking dry the natural resources of your home area.
Soenke Franzen, Germany

Attacking oil facilities is fundamental military tactics in any war, especially when the opposition needs the oil to fuel its equipment and the revenue to finance its military forces. If the government of Sudan was distributing the proceeds from its oil resources in anything close to a fair and just way to develop the country, the moral position of the SPLA might be compromised. At present, the Southern resistance seems to hold the moral high ground.
David Wilson, USA

Oil is usually accompanied by conflict

Najim Ani, USA
Oil is usually accompanied by conflict. After all Desert Storm was a war for oil. It is an attractive target for the SPLA but that said they would probably be shooting themselves in the foot in the process. Attacking the oil installations raises the stakes. At the moment Khartoum is too far to be within striking distance for the SPLA and the Southern Sudanese region is too far for Khartoum to broadcast power over its titular territorial sovereignty. In the end all we have to show for it is blood mingled with black gold under the guise of religion.
Najim Ani, USA

The SPLA are only hurting their own people. They will cause suffering for the Arabs and Africans living in the region alike.
Abdi, Somali in the USA

The economy of the Sudan is largely based on oil. The SPLA can only win the war by disrupting the oil trade that supports and sustains a racist, imperialistic and plundering government. And anyway what will a prosperous economy do for the marginalised Southern Sudanese people? Absolutely nothing!
George Mutua, Kenya

I think the fact the government of Sudan is using the revenues from oil to finance the war effort does not legimatise the attacks of the SPLA on the oil fields and its employees. However, it is the Western world's responsibility to make sure they set up a programme that makes sure the revenues from oil are not used to finance the war. Let's work to bring together all the people of Sudan - Christian and Moslems.
A. Aden, USA of Somali origin

We want peace first, oil and prosperity later

Baak Wol, South Sudan
The war against the innocent South Sudanese will be intensified if these oil installations remain operational. There is ample evidence to support the SPLM/SPLA, i.e. the recent report for the Guardian newspaper by Julie Flint and her BBC Focus on Africa interview from Nairobi, together with another journalist called Julian Borger in Washington (The Guardian (UK), Tuesday August 14, 2001. The oil companies will be welcome back to invest and operate the oil fields after the war but for now they must turns off the pumps, pack their bags and leave the country. If they don't, then they should be responsible for whatever happens to them in the process of SPLA attacking these deadly installations. We want peace first, oil and prosperity later.
Baak Wol, South Sudan

The SPLA wasted a lot of time. They shouldn't have allowed the government to started oil exploitation in the first place. It has become clear that the government is using oil as a source of income for financing the war and if that is the case, why can't oil fields and companies become legitimate targets?
Titus, Sudan/ USA

What a silly question to ask in this day and age. For over 60 years now oil has been regarded as the premier strategic target. So if oil revenues are helping your enemy buy arms and kill your people, then by all means attack! You can always re-write history if you win.
Tom Byrne, USA

The rebels have every right to attack oil installations. They are fighting for their legitimate rights. The oil companies do not care about anything but profit. They take a risk supporting an evil government; they must be ready to pay the cost. The SPLA is not doing enough in terms of hitting oil installations and other government supporters.
Bhekuzulu, Canada

See also:

08 Aug 01 | Africa
Sudan rebels 'attack oil field'
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Sudan
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