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Urgent action on Sudan
from: Inter-Church Coalition on Africa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
date: 22 September 1999
re: URGENT ACTION ON SUDAN
Please distribute this Urgent Action bulletin widely. A strong expression of
public support is needed to complement policy work of ICCAF and others.
URGENT ACTION BULLETIN UAB 1999/#3, September 20, 1999
Sudan, Oil, Crimes Against Humanity...and Canada
Despite repeated appeals by Canadian churches and their Sudanese church
partners, and many Canadian NGOs, the Government of Canada has failed to
take action against Talisman Energy Inc., a Canadian company that has
invested $1 billion to help the National Islamic Front Government of Sudan
to develop Sudan's oil reserves. Why is Canadian involvement in Sudan's oil
development program an issue? Talisman's investment in Sudan will
effectively help the Sudanese government, an illegal regime that came to
power in a military coup, wage a war that relentlessly, systematically and
terrifyingly effectively targets civilians.
Following is a list of reasons why the Talisman-Sudanese regime business
partnership is a catastrophic liability for the Sudanese people and a
compelling indictment of the Government of Canada for its failure, if not
refusal, to rein in Talisman.
1. Talisman's legal business partner, the NIF regime, is one of the world's
worst violators of human rights. International human rights agencies and the
UN Commission on Human Rights have accumulated volumes of carefully gathered
evidence charging the Sudanese regime with acts of genocide, ethnic
cleansing, and other crimes against humanity. Atrocities include engineered
famine (by causing massive population displacements and banning
international humanitarian food aid), aerial bombardment of civilian
population centres, a scorched earth policy in the Nuba Mountains in
central Sudan, the systematic rape of women as a weapon of war, and the
encouragement of slavery.
2. More than two million people, 90 percent of them innocent civilians, have
died in Sudan's civil war since the latest phase began in 1983. Another 4.5
million have been displaced. Last year 2.6 million were brought to the brink
of starvation largely because of the scorched earth policies of
the Sudanese regime, and especially because the regime banned humanitarian
relief agencies from reaching war-affected populations at a critical time.
The numbers of war-related dead and
displaced are staggering. And yet, Talisman chooses to continue as a partner
in business with a regime that bears the bulk of responsibility for this
chronicle of human misery and devastation.
3. Moreover, the ownership of the oil reserves that Talisman is helping to
develop is disputed. The oil fields lie in southern Sudan but are controlled
by the central government in the north. The Sudanese regime's refusal to
give the south a say in the development of the fields was one of the
original causes of Sudan's 16 year civil war. By investing in Sudan under
these circumstances, Talisman is exploiting the conflict -- perhaps the
worst in the world today -- for financial gain.
4. There are credible reports that the Sudanese regime has forcibly and
violently removed populations from the oil producing regions, including
concessions owned by Talisman, to make the oil fields secure for foreign
companies. Such action would violate the provisions of Protocol II of the
Geneva Convention, and constitutes a war crime under international law. The
significance of such a violation can hardly be overstated.
5. Oil will give the regime an enormous military advantage over regional
populations fighting for a say in the development of their own natural
resources and their right of self-determination. After decades of
exploitation and abuse from successive northern governments, southern
Sudanese in particular wish to decide for themselves, through a democratic
process, whether they want to remain in a united Sudan or form an
independent country. The Sudanese regime is determined, through violent
means, to deny them this choice.
6. Oil revenues can be used to buy new weapons to increase the regime's
comparative advantage on the battlefield. It desperately needs these funds;
the war is costing it in excess of $1 million a day. Several months ago
Hassan al-Turabi, the most influential member of the NIF government,
declared publicly that oil revenues made possible by Talisman and other
foreign companies would be used to build factories for missiles and tanks.
7. Talisman and other foreign oil companies working in Sudan will provide
the regime with free oil. This will save the regime $400 million a year in
oil imports, thus freeing up additional resources for the war effort. The
oil kept for domestic use can be refined into fuel for military use in
Sudanese refineries, including for planes that regularly bomb civilian
population centres. There are reports that oil from Talisman's wells has
already been processed for military purposes.
8. Oil is a major disincentive to the NIF government to negotiate in good
faith in the ongoing regional peace process managed by the
Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The IGAD talks are based
on a Declaration of Principles which addresses the two key issues in the
conflict, the right of self-determination and a secular constitution. Oil
revenues will bolster the Sudanese regime's confidence to try to either win
the war outright, which would have catastrophic consequences for civilians,
or force an unjust peace on the south.
The oil is now flowing! As of August 1999, oil from southern Sudan began
flowing through a 1600 km pipeline to the international export market. Much
of the oil comes from wells drilled by Talisman, which also financed
construction of the pipeline. Already the regime has bought 50 tanks from
Poland and there are reports of additional new weapons purchases.
Predictions that oil development would result in an intensification of the
war now seem to be coming true.
Talisman doesn't seem to care
Talisman seems driven only by the promise of huge profits. Canadian churches
and NGOs have on several occasions engaged Talisman in dialogue about the
potentially harmful impact of its investments in Sudan. Talisman has not
only demonstrated a lack of cooperation, it has been dismissive and has
displayed a shocking disregard for the overwhelming body of reports citing
atrocities in Sudan. It has called the allegations of human rights abuses
made by the UN Commission on Human Rights and reputable human rights
agencies "lurid and exaggerated." It defends its presence in Sudan by
declaring itself to be a benevolent purveyor of Western values, and says it
is providing for the economic development of all of Sudan. But these
self-serving claims ignore Talisman's role in the oil-driven devastation
that is so concentrated in the south.
Now that the pipeline is built and the oil flowing, there is even less
incentive for Talisman to heed its critics. Clearly, Talisman has placed
profits before people in the most cynical of ways, with terribly destructive
implications for tens of thousands of Sudanese women and children, who make
up 90 percent of the casualties of the war in Sudan. The oil now flowing
through the pipeline, financed by a Canadian firm, is tainted with the blood
of innocent Sudanese.
Whither the Canadian government?
All the Canadian government has done about Talisman is to warn the company
about the dangers its personnel may face by working in a war zone. It says
it does not have the legislative tools to restrict Talisman's ability to
operate in Sudan and hold it accountable for any role it plays in the direct
or indirect violation of human rights and international law. This is not
true. Research has shown that Canada does have the legal means to take
action against Talisman. What is lacking is political will.
Canada is providing valuable support for a regional peace process for Sudan,
which should be recognized. However, such support should not be accepted as
a reason for inaction on Talisman.
Oil development is a disincentive for the regime to talk peace at the IGAD
table. It threatens to negate the usefulness of any support for the peace
process. Clearly, Canada should adopt a dual policy of supporting peace
initiatives while at the same time taking decisive steps to restrict
Talisman's ability to further strengthen the Sudanese regime.
The weight of evidence suggests that Talisman is effectively complicit in
crimes against humanity
in Sudan, and presents the Government of Canada, and all shareholders in
Talisman, with a clear moral imperative: act now to prevent Talisman from
aggravating an already too costly civil war.
What You Can Do
Write a politely worded but firm letter to Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of
Urge the Minister to utilize all available international mechanisms, and
all domestic tools at Canada's disposal, to prevent Talisman from making it
possible for the Sudanese government to intensify the civil war in Sudan and
further violate the rights of Sudanese civilians. Urge the Minister not to
wait for other countries to take action but to be pro-active and assertive
in this regard.
Emphasize that Canadians will not allow their government to stand idly by
while a Canadian company so callously disregards international human rights
norms and standards and the lives of innocent Sudanese.
Urge the Minister to stop using the excuse of a lack of legal
manouerverability and to muster the political will needed for Canada to take
firm action against Talisman.
Urge the Minister to complement Canada's support of the peace process for
Sudan with action against Talisman; otherwise (you can point out), Canada's
support to the peace process may be negated.
Write to: Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lester B. Pearson
Bldg., 125 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2 FAX: 613-996-3443
Send a copy of your letter to ICCAF (your letter can be mailed, faxed or
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