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Lundin sent a letter to Human Rights Watch in September 2000, shortly after these events, answering Human Rights Watch’s inquiry about allegations of civilian displacement and the May 1999 attack on the
rig. In its reply Lundin stated:
Lundin Oil activities in Sudan are still at the exploratory stage; we have therefore a limited presence and impact there. It is therefore difficult for us to fully refute or confirm what you claim to be undisputed facts, even though we do not agree that oil is 1336 Lundin Oil (SE), “Report for the Nine Months ended 30 September 2000: Record Profit,” Geneva, November 14, 2000.
1337 John Noble, briefing, August 5, 2000.
1338 See above, “Government-Armed Offensive Leaces Tens of Thousands of Civilians Uprooted, 2000.”
Lundin did not even admit that rebels attacked its rig in May 1999 and it suspended operations. Its operations were still suspended at the time of its letter. It did eventually admit its operations were suspended for eighteen months—but not until February 2001, when it published its 2000 annual report and had already recommenced operations.1340 Lundin was finally able to start its operations again in December 2000, and announced that it had commenced testing operations on the Thar Jath-1 well (which locals called Ryer) within a few days of the inauguration of the seventy-five kilometer all-weather road from the base camp at Rubkona to the drilling location. It expected the testing to last about four weeks.1341 On March 5, 2001, Lundin Oil put announced in a press release entitled, “Lundin Strikes Oil in Sudan,” that its drilling at the Thar Jath-1 well (Ryer) resulted in “a significant oil discovery on Block 5A.”1342 In its year-end 2000 report, Lundin retrospectively admitted, “operations on the Thar Jath well in Block 5A resumed in late December .... after an 18 month suspension....”1343 During the time of its “suspension” a seventy-five kilometer road was constructed which, together with a bridge over the Bahr El Ghazal River at Bentiu, would provide year round access into Block 5A1344—at the cost of the massive 1339 Christine Batruch, Lundin Oil AB, letter to Human Rights Watch, September 11, 2000, from Geneva to Washington, D.C. This reply letter from Lundin was mistakenly faxed to the wrong address, and was not resent or received by Human Rights Watch until on or about January 16, 2001.
1340 Lundin Oil report, “Lundin Oil: Report for the Year Ended 31 December 2000,” February 23, 2001.
1341 Lundin Oil press release, “Lundin Oil Commences Testing on Thar Jath,” Geneva, January 30, 2001.
1342 Lundin Oil press release, “Lundin Oil: Lundin Strikes Oil in Sudan,” Geneva, March 5, 2001.
1343 Lundin Oil report, “Report for the Year Ended 31 December 2000.” 1344 Ibid.
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displacement described in this report. More than any other construction, the bridge spelled trouble for the residents and displaced persons south of the river. It opened up the area to “year round access” and attacks by Baggara horsemen and increasing numbers of army vehicles.
Lundin Denies Revelations about Forced Displacement in Block 5A, 2001 In mid-March 2001, Christian Aid, a London-based charity funding relief, education, health, and community-building activities in southern Sudan, issued a report, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan.1345 It reported, based on interviews with victims, that government troops and militias had burned and depopulated the entire length of Lundin’s oil road in 2000 in order to make way for Lundin’s operations.1346 Christian Aid called on a Lundin board member, former Swedish Conservative Party Prime Minister Carl Bildt (1991-94), to resign as U.N. Special Envoy to the Balkans. It said that his position as a U.N.
peacemaker was incompatible with his membership on the board of Lundin Oil because of Lundin’s operations with the Sudanese government and Sudan’s scorched earth strategy around oilfields.1347 The Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh said, “Lundin Oil activities are negative for Sweden,” according to one press report. She added, “we expect Swedish companies to respect an ethical code in line with human rights and the environment in which they operate abroad.”1348 A special on Swedish television the week of the release of the Christian Aid report featured Mr. Bildt lead to an avalanche of warring press releases in Sweden, as Mr. Bildt refused to resign from the Lundin board or his U.N. peace 1345 Christian Aid, The Scorched Earth: Oil and war in Sudan, London, March 2001.
1346 Ibid., p. 7.
1347 Christian Aid press release, “Christian Aid calls on UN Special Envoy to resign,” London, March 16, 2001.
1348 Moussa Awuonda, “UN Envoy Under Scrutiny Over Links With Oil Firm,” African Church Information Service (Nairobi), Stockholm, April 10, 2001. It noted that the intensity of media interest in this situation was unusual for Sweden.
position, and mounted an attack on his critics in the press. Lundin scheduled a special board meeting in late March to discuss the allegations.1349 Swedish Foreign Minister Lindh sought to have the Swedish government investigate Lundin’s activities in Sudan. Lundin said it welcomed the inquiry.1350 Handelsbankens Fonder, the fund division of a Swedish Bank (Handelsbanken), a large shareholder of Lundin, sold its stake in Lundin Oil. A number of other large investors in Lundin demanded an explanation regarding the human rights criticism of Lundin’s presence in Sudan.1351 Lundin responded to the Christian Aid report with an expression of concern, saying “the company has not witnessed the acts alleged and would not accept violations of human rights within its sphere of operations.” It said it would monitor the situation and look further into the allegations. It stated that its environmental impact study contained information indicating low density population settlements in the area.1352 It did not reveal when the study was done, nor if its activities or army operations had any impact on these people whose presence was admitted (“low density population settlements”).
Lundin added that Lundin employees present prior to and during the September-December 2000 construction of the all-weather oil road said that they did not witness forced removal of the local population. When company representatives visited the “habited areas along the road” in January 2001, “no signs of destruction were observed.”1353 1349 Nicholas George and Frances Williams, “Bildt pressed on Sudan link,” Financial Times (London), Geneva, March 19, 2001.
1350 Lundin Oil press release, “Lundin Oil: Lundin Oil Welcomes Government Enquiry,” Geneva, March 21, 2001.
1351 “Lundin Oil’s owners seek explanation,” Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), March 21, 2001, translated and abstracted from Swedish into English, BBC World Reporter.
1352 Lundin Oil press release, “Lundin Oil Looks into Allegations on Sudan,” Geneva, March 15, 2001.
The Lundin statement, however, is limited to refer only to what the employees saw first hand—in Block 5A.
Lundin hastily conducted an investigation into the displacement alleged by Christian Aid in its concession, through its president Ian Lundin, and issued a letter to its shareholders, undated but published on Lundin’s website on or before March 31, 2001.
It was around this time, however, that Swedish journalist Anna Koblanck visited the oil road with two Lundin employees, and published an article on April 28, 2001, that contradicted many Lundin assertions.1355 Lundin asserted that the NGOs and U.N. organizations it interviewed “have indicated to us that the local population has more to gain than to lose from our continued presence there.”1356 The road to the Lundin drilling location in Block 5A, the letter to shareholders claimed, was built after “serious reflection” and was done in a way to avoid population settlements. Lundin said that the residents were glad to have the bridge—which it claimed was built by Lundin1357—over the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River 1354 Letter to Lundin shareholders, March 2001. The hasty Lundin investigatory trip to Block 5A occurred between March 16 and 31, 2001, at the outside.
1355 Koblanck, “Lundin Oil’s road/DN in Sudan,” April 28, 2001; see above “A Journalist Travels the Oil Road, April 2001.” 1356 Letter to Lundin shareholders, March 2001.
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to get to market in Rubkona. What the letter does not mention, however, was that the road cuts through an airstrip which the local people built for delivery of international relief supplies in Kuac; nor that, first under the SPLA and then under other rebels, an Arab-Nuer market existed and flourished in Rupnyagai, which is south of the river and accessible from Block 5A without a bridge, between 1986 and 1997.1358 Many Nuer sold their cattle there.1359 Another press release repeated these statements and elaborated on the findings of Lundin’s “investigation,” stating that the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan would not have reached his damaging conclusions about the effect of oil operations on the people of Western Upper Nile/Unity State, specifically mentioning Lundin’s areas, if he “had seen first hand what oil means to Unity State and its people, and heard from the local inhabitants how they feel about the presence of oil companies.”1360 In its first quarter report for 2001, Lundin repeated that, “The Company has faced some heavy criticisms mainly in the Swedish media about its involvement in Sudan. Those criticisms are misplaced and based on unreliable information.”1361 However, Lundin apparently limited its investigation of human rights conditions to talking to those who had not been displaced. “There are witnesses on the ground who are prepared to testify about this,” Lundin stated.1362 If this investigation was conducted in the presence of Sudan security or military personnel, as has been the case elsewhere in the oil areas, witnesses on the ground would testify to 1358 In September 1997 Rupnyagai was one of the first towns destroyed in the Paulino Matiep/Riek Machar fighting—precisely because it was the location of a booming market and also of the homes of commanders.
1359 Wangkei, also south of the river and accessible without a bridge, was a trading town on the river years ago, but has been a garrison town for a long time. There was little river traffic to Wangkei because of the war. Anonymous RASS relief worker, interview, August 1-2, 2000.
1360 Lundin Oil AB press release, “Sudan: Lundin Oil refutes the allegations,” Geneva, April 3, 2001.
1361 Lundin Oil, “Report for the three months ended 31 March 2001,” Stockholm, May 10, 2001.
1362 Lundin Oil, “Sudan: Lundin Oil refutes the allegations,” April 3, 2001.
anything they thought the military or security wanted them to say. But Lundin does not disclose many important facts about its investigation, starting out with whether the interviews were private or not.
The report of the investigation excerpted on Lundin’s web site was wrong in several particulars, pointing to a very limited and ahistorical inquiry. For instance, Ian Lundin is quoted as saying that the people in Bentiu and Rubkona area have moved there due to a combination of factors—one of which is seasonal migration. Nuer agro-pastoralists migrate in the dry season to areas where there is water for their cattle.
Historically, they never watered or grazed their cattle inside towns. As already quoted above, relief agencies said that those tens of thousands fleeing into Bentiu town in August 2000 were displaced because of conflict.
Furthermore, Mr. Lundin’s description of the war is incorrect in several ways. Lundin’s press release stated, “There had been fighting in the area as a result of rebel attacks on Nuer villages which are under the protection of the SSUM [Paulino Matiep] and SSIM [Riek Machar] forces that are themselves allied with the Government, but the situation had calmed down.”1363 As this report demonstrates, this is a one-sided and misleading rendition of what is a complex situation.
Maj. Gen. Paulino Matiep, whose territory of origin is almost entirely in Block 4, came into Block 5A to attack, not to protect, villages there and to escort Sudanese government troops to the Ryer/Thar Jath well, where the government set up a garrison in 1999. Numerous interviews and documents, as well as government statements, have by now fully established that the government’s military activities in Block 5A had a single purpose: protection of the oil.
The SSIM forces refer to the forces of Riek Machar, which were overall ineffective in protecting their territory in Block 5A from attacks by Paulino Matiep’s militia. The two forces were technically on the same side, the government’s side, but the Riek forces were less well-armed by the government. They attacked the Lundin drilling rig in Block 5A in May 1999 because of disputes over who was to control or
guard the oil in Block 5A militarily. They were attacked by Paulino Matiep and government army soldiers, and they counterattacked, and so forth.
Less than a year later, in January 2000, Riek Machar left the government and formed the Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SPDF), but, by mid-2000, most of the combatants who followed him into the SPDF were unofficially back on the government side again, receiving government arms in order, together with Paulino Matiep’s militia, to attack the forces of Bul Nuer SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet, who had joined the SPLM/A in early 2000. These attacks took place in the Nimne/Nhialdiu/Wicok zone, mostly inside Block 5A.
In other words, Ian Lundin’s investigation was inadequate.
Nevertheless, he was able to give some information about the presence of the Sudanese army along the road. He admitted that “there are small camps of soldiers every 4-5 kilometres along the road and one larger camp near our drill site at Jarayan.”1364 This confirms what those who saw the road from the air and the Nuer displaced said about the militarization of the road.