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It was at this time, September 1999, that most of Paulino Matiep’s forces, led by his Western Upper Nile/Unity State zonal commander Peter Gatdet, mutinied against the government, disgusted with the Nuer-Nuer fighting while the government drained off Nuer oil. Peter Gatdet, Tito Biel, and many other Nuer commanders in November 1999 formed a military command council, the Upper Nile Provisional United Military Command Council (UMCC), which was to have supreme military authority over all the antigovernment forces in Upper Nile. The commanders were also dissatisfied with the role of Riek Machar in cooperating with the government despite the government’s refusal to give his forces the right to control the oilfields, and its refusal to honor the Khartoum Peace Agreement.
The new alliance radically and formally changed the military and political situation in Western Upper Nile/Unity State, with a sizeable increase in the number of antigovernment Nuer forces—Tito Biel’s and Peter Gatdet’s. This left the government with far fewer Nuer troops to front for it there. In response, the government initiated a heightened drive to recruit more young “volunteers” from universities for the more reliable, Islamist-inspired militias.
Just when it seemed that there was a chance that Nuer rebels opposed to the government would gain unity under the UMCC, however, Riek Machar resigned from the government and returned to the southern rebel area. He then created yet another political/military movement, the Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front (SPDF) in February 2000. His personal maneuvers in exile to retain a significant political and military role in the affairs of Sudan played straight into the hands of the government.
For a while, Machar’s Nuer forces (including many who had signed on with the UMCC) and those of Peter Gatdet, who had since joined the SPLM/A, combined. Their actions included impeding the construction of the oil roads for Blocks 5A and 4, which were guarded by the government troops and the Paulino Matiep militia. But in April 2000, the Sudanese government launched a new offensive supported by hundreds of muraheleen (Baggara militia) on horseback. Backed by artillery, gunships, and
Antonov bombers, they advanced into Block 4. Another government force advanced from Bentiu south to their military stronghold at the Block 5A oil exploration site at Thar Jath (Ryer).24 The working alliance among the Nuer rebels did not last long; its end was hastened by the government’s ready supply of ammunition to the Riek Machar commanders to fight the SPLA/Gatdet troops in a mutual fury of grievance-settling and revenge-taking. In July-August 2000 fighting between governmentsupplied and antigovernment Nuer forces left a wide swath of territory between Nimne and Nhialdiu burned to the ground and tens of thousands of civilians displaced.
This fighting, with scores of civilian casualties and substantial destruction of civilian property, continued between Cmdrs. Peter Paar Jiek (SPDF, backed by regular Sudanese government forces) and Peter Gatdet (SPLA) until August 2001—more than a year of scorched-earth tactics displacing Nuer civilians by the tens of thousands—with killing, rape, and abduction as well. A February 2001 attack by SPLA Cmdr. Peter Gatdet on the SPDF Nuer area of Nyal, Western Upper Nile/Unity State, a U.N. relief hub, threatened the West Bank Nuer-Dinka peace agreement concluded in March 1999 at Wunlit.
When in August 2001 the two “Peters” reached a standstill agreement, Cmdr. Peter Paar Jiek ceased to serve as a local guard for the Lundin Thar Jath (Ryer) Block 5A oilfield. The two commanders formally reached a peace covenant in February 2002—a few weeks after the SPLM/A and SPDF leaders, Dr.
John Garang and Dr. Riek Machar, announced their unity at a press conference with much fanfare in Nairobi.
With Cmdr. Peter Paar Jiek no longer on the Sudanese government’s side, the situation of Lundin’s project became precarious. The pro-government Paulino Matiep Bul Nuer militia, based in the government garrison town of Mayom, was not native to the Jagei Nuer area where Paar Jiek had drawn many troops—and where the Thar Jath (Ryer) rig was located. In response to the SPLA’s increased forays into this area following the Paar/Gatdet standstill, the Sudanese government launched a dry 24 Human Rights Watch interview, Elijah Hon Top (deceased 2000), chief of staff, South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), Khartoum, July 26, 1999.
season offensive to protect the Block 5A Lundin Thar Jath (Ryer) project. In the meantime, however, on January 22, 2002, Lundin suspended operations on Block 5A due to insecurity; its helicopter had been shot down in December (reportedly by an angry member of the Paulino Matiep militia).
The Sudanese government’s early 2002 attack on Block 5A adjacent to Block 1 (the Nimne/ Nhialdiu corridor), and near its garrison in Ler made use of Nuer pro-government militias and Baggara. The Baggara crossed the Bahr El Ghazal (Nam) River into Block 5A via the Lundin-constructed bridge at Bentiu, and began their “standard” raids, destroying villages, looting cattle, and capturing women and children. The government forces followed up and/or paved the way with Antonov bombing and helicopter gunships, forcing more tens of thousands to move, some for the second or third time. They moved southwest, towards rivers and toic dividing Dinka and Nuer in Bahr El Ghazal. In May 2002, the same displacement process started in Bul Nuer territory between Mayom and Mankien, as efforts to build a second bridge, this one in GNPOC’s Block 4 at the military garrison at Wangkei, proceeded.
The U.N. special rapporteur on Sudan reported to the March/April 2002 session of the U.N.
Commission on Human Rights that: “the overall human rights situation has not improved” since 2001.25 He stated his belief that “oil exploitation is closely linked to the conflict which... is mainly a war for the control of resources and, thus, power.”26 He further stated that “oil has seriously exacerbated the conflict while deteriorating the overall situation of human rights,” and said that he had received information whereby “oil exploitation is continuing to cause widespread displacement....”27 By 2002, the government had apparently reached a strategic balance point in this process. It was able to generate enough income from the relatively small GNPOC areas already producing oil to start a
domestic arms industry and purchase sixteen new attack helicopters in two years and armaments from abroad that would enable it to target, clear populations, and secure the next oil concession area with road building and garrisons. Thus, the circle was completed, providing a government strategy that could be reproduced successively until all oil areas and transport corridors could be brought under heavy government guard—protecting the oil which in turn funds a larger guard.
Government Revenue from Oil and Expenditures on Arms Before the oil project went on-line, Sudan’s economy was in dire straits. In 1990, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a declaration of noncooperation against Sudan due to the government’s unpaid IMF debt and debt service. Sudan agreed to a schedule of payments to the IMF in 1997 and made progress in fiscal reforms that ultimately led the IMF to lift its declaration on August 27, 1999— just days before Sudan exported its first crude oil.28 Government oil revenues rose from zero in 1998 to almost 42 percent of total government revenue in 2001.
Oil revenue has made the all-important difference in projected military spending. The president of Sudan announced in 2000 that Sudan was using the oil revenue to build a domestic arms industry. The military spending of 90.2 billion dinars (U.S. $ 349 million) for 2001 was to soak up more than 60 percent of the 2001 oil revenue of 149.7 billion dinars (U.S. $ 580.2 million). Cash military expenditures, which did not include domestic security expenditures, officially rose 45 percent from 1999 to 2001. This was reflected in the increasing government use of helicopter gunships and aerial bombardment in the war.
In U.N. mandatory filings, Russia confirmed that in 2001 it had exported to Sudan twenty-two armored combat vehicles and twelve attack helicopters. In 2002, Russia sold eight amoured combat vehicles and 28 International Monetary Fund, “IMF Lifts Declaration of Noncooperation from Sudan,” News Brief No. 99/52, Washington, D.C., August 31, 1999.
four attack helicopters to Sudan, and Belarus sold Sudan fourteen large-caliber Russian-made artillery systems.
This represents an increase in Sudan’s attack helicopter fleet from six in 2000 to twenty-two in 2002— more than tripling the fleet.
Corporate Responsibility The major oil operators in Sudan are all partners of the government’s state-owned oil company, Sudapet.
Human Rights Watch believes that the companies in the two oil consortiums during the 1998-2002 period covered by this report, Talisman (Blocks 1, 2, and 4) and Lundin (Block 5A), and their partners CNPC, Petronas, and OMV, have benefited from the government’s continued abuses of human rights.
(Chevron was also a beneficiary, but suspended operations as of 1984. Arakis benefitted and was able to put several wells into production before it ran out of money and withdrew in 1998.) Some of these oil companies denied that violations took place, and hosted journalists on tours of the oilfields. In 2001, Talisman paid for a costly project: selective satellite photographs and analysis by an expert reader that “proved” that there had never been any displacement—carefully limiting the scope of the project to several small areas inside its concession. Modern technology was used in lieu of conducting interviews with any people who were actually forcibly displaced or were eyewitnesses to this brutality and its visible aftermath.
From the beginning of its involvement in Sudan, Talisman resolutely refused to speak out against or to seriously investigate the Sudanese government’s policy of forcibly displacing civilians from areas designated for oil extraction and the human rights abuses that have been an essential element of this
policy.29 Yet, under modern concepts of corporate responsibility that Talisman claims to endorse, it had a responsibility to ensure that its business operations did not depend upon, or benefit from, gross human rights abuses such as those that have been committed by the government and its proxy forces in Sudan.
From the outset, Talisman had ample warning of human rights abuses in Sudan: even before Talisman became involved, Canadian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) had been campaigning for the Canadian government to force Talisman’s Canadian predecessor investor, Arakis, to pull out of Sudan because of the Sudanese government’s record of gross human rights abuses. These Canadian NGOs then wrote to Talisman and publicly called for the company to stay out of Sudan. Senior Talisman officials later had meetings with Riek Machar and other southern leaders. Although Talisman denies it, these southern leaders say that early on they told Talisman about the forcible displacement of civilians from its oilfield areas.
In a letter to Talisman shareholders dated March 10, 1999, Talisman CEO Jim Buckee acknowledged that Canadian NGOs and others had raised troubling questions about human rights abuses by the
Sudanese government, but stated:
Because Sudan presents significant challenges, we realized that this project would attract questions from varied sources. However, careful study last summer  persuaded management that this is a sound business investment and our involvement could be carried out in a responsible, ethical manner. Experience to date confirms that judgment.
We recognize that Sudan's chronic troubles, including poverty and conflict running along political and tribal "fault lines", create special challenges.... Talisman is taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our employees.... 30 29 The only known exception occurred when Jim Buckee joined the international chorus of protest of the government helicopter gunning of an emergency food relief distribution location near Ler that killed twenty-four civilians in February 2002. He wrote a private letter to President El Bashir.
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In July 1999, Human Rights Watch asked Talisman’s Khartoum-based general manager for the GNPOC pipeline division if he had received any information about forced civilian displacement from the GNPOC concession area. He said that he had received some reports but that he had not investigated them because of the frenetic pace of work that Talisman was maintaining in order to meet its pipeline and production deadlines.31 U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Sudan Dr. Leonardo Franco presented a report to the U.N. General Assembly on October 14, 1999, in which he noted that the May 1999 government assault on Ruweng County (in Block 1) had caused many people to become displaced, adding that the offensive had lasted ten days.32 Jim Buckee rejected this report as “hearsay”33 and indicated that he might present contradictory evidence, though he did not do so. In late 1999, after months of pressure from the Canadian government, Talisman finally signed the International Code of Ethics for Canadian Business;
this committed the company to the “value” of “human rights and social justice” and to “support and respect the protection of international human rights” within its “sphere of influence” (undefined), and “not be complicit in human rights abuses.”34 Talisman justified its presence in Sudan—and argued even that its withdrawal would be “immoral”—on the grounds that it undertook community development programs for the dwindling population, and because of the unsubstantiated claim that “development” would be beneficial and would bring peace.
30 James W. Buckee, Talisman CEO, “President’s Letter to Shareholders,” March 10, 1999, http://www.Talismanenergy.com/ar98pres.html (accessed February 3, 2001).
31 Ralph R. Capeling, General Manager, GNPOC, Pipeline Division, Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Khartoum, July 28, 1999.