Date: Feature Week of
August 8, 2004
SUDAN: IS OIL THE DRIVING FACTOR FOR MILITARY INTERVENTION?
The Mask of Altruism May Be Disguising A Colonial War
"They are biased and have their own agenda. Sanctions will not harm the government, they will harm the people. Have they not learned this yet?" – Yasir Abdullah, Sudan journalist
Are there any blacks in America who have skepticism about the prospect of sending Western troops into Sudan to curb the situation in Darfur? Before African Americans jump to the forefront in encouraging former colonialists to engage military forces inside that sovereign state, BE AWARE: there are huge untapped reserves in both southern Sudan and southern Darfur.
Oil was the spark for uprisings and the formation of armed opposition groups against the government in 1984. One of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army’s (SPLA) first armed activities were targeted at workers of the Chevron oil company, which planned to construct an oil pipeline running from the oil fields of the South to refineries in the northern harbor of Port Sudan.
An upstream oil industry is key to the future of the economy of Sudan. Although the country is considered to be vastly under-explored, it has been a producer of oil and gas for a number of years. The struggle for control of Sudan’s vast oil reserves, mainly located in the contested south, became fierce after Sudan became an oil exporter in 1999. The country currently earns an estimated $2 billion a year from oil production of more than 250-thousand barrels per day. Experts believe that Sudan has upward of $45 billion in oil reserves and that output could increase to 450-thousand barrels, next year, provided the country can end the war and attract enough investment from major Western energy companies.
So, the question African Americans should be asking is: “How to treat the humanitarian crisis in Sudan?” Because of the vast underground wealth of that country, black Americans ought to have a little skepticism regarding the circumstances of the US Congress’ move to declare “genocide” there. No one, not even the Sudanese government, questions that there is civil war in Darfur, or that it has caused an immense number of refugees. The government admits that nearly a million people have left for camps outside Darfur's main towns to escape marauding paramilitary groups. Thanks to the various wars going on in Sudan, and inside neighboring countries, the region is awash with guns and vendettas. Tensions have risen between nomads and herders, paramilitary groups practice widespread highway robbery, and each tribe has its own private army.
But major media has taken this complex picture and projected on to it a simple morality tale of ethnic cleansing and genocide. They gloss over the fact that the Janjaweed militia come from the same ethnic group and religion as the people they are allegedly persecuting - everyone in Darfur is black, African, Arabic-speaking and Muslim. Campaigners for intervention accuse the Sudanese government of supporting the Janjaweed, without mentioning that the Sudanese defense minister has condemned them as "bandits,” and a Khartoum court recently sentenced six Janjaweed soldiers to horrible punishments, including amputation of their hands and legs. We should ask: Why don’t we hear about the rebel groups which the Janjaweed are fighting, or about any atrocities that they may have committed?
Moral Americans should have concern for needless deaths, but maybe we should be a little concerned about claims of the number of deaths - 30,000 or 50,000 are figures being bandied about. The Sudanese government says the death toll in Darfur, since the beginning of the conflict in 2003, is not greater than 1,200 on all sides. And, if humanitarian is our concern, why is such attention devoted to Sudan when, in neighboring Congo, the death rate from the war there is estimated to be some 2 or 3 million, a tragedy equaled only by the silence with which it is treated in America’s media?
Currently, we are being shown staged arrests of “concerned” members of Congress and starving babies in refugee camps. But, be assured, no TV stations, or newspapers, will be showing the limbless or the dead that we cause if we attack Sudan. Nor, will the potential appropriation of Sudan’s oil resources be widely shown outside corporate boardrooms.
Humanitarian aid should be what the Red Cross always said it must be - politically neutral. Anything else will be just imperialist participating in another colonial war for land and resources - disguised with the hypocritical mask of altruism.
© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com