Darfur: Forget genocide, there's oil
- "Darfur and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy "with
other means" - control of oil everywhere"
Darfur: Forget genocide, there's oil
By F William Engdahl
To paraphrase the famous quip during the 1992 US presidential debates,
when an unknown William Jefferson Clinton told then-president George
Herbert Walker Bush, "It's the economy, stupid," the present concern
of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan
is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the
peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.
No. "It's the oil, stupid."
The case of Darfur, a forbidding piece of sun-parched real estate
in the southern part of Sudan, illustrates the new Cold War over oil,
where the dramatic rise in China's oil demand to fuel its booming
growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of -
ironically - dollar diplomacy. With its more than US$1.2 trillion in
mainly US dollar reserves at the Peoples' National Bank of China,
Beijing is engaging in active petroleum geopolitics. Africa is a major
focus, and in Africa, the central region between Sudan and Chad is a
This is defining a major new front in what, since the US invasion of
Iraq in 2003, is a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing over
control of major oil sources. So far Beijing has played its cards a
bit more cleverly than Washington. Darfur is a major battleground in
this high-stakes contest for oil control.
China oil diplomacy
In recent months, Beijing has embarked on a series of initiatives
designed to secure long-term raw materials sources in one of the
planet's most endowed regions - Sub-Saharan Africa. No raw material
has higher priority in Beijing at present than oil.
Today China draws an estimated 30% of its crude oil from Africa. That
explains an extraordinary series of diplomatic initiatives which have
left Washington furious. China is using no-strings-attached dollar
credits to gain access to Africa's vast raw material wealth, leaving
Washington's typical control game via the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of
the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?
In November last year Beijing hosted an extraordinary summit of 40
African heads of state. They literally rolled out the red carpet for
the leaders of, among others, Algeria, Nigeria, Mali, Angola, Central
African Republic, Zambia and South Africa.
China has just done an oil deal that links it with two of the
continent's largest nations, Nigeria and South Africa. China National
Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) will lift oil in Nigeria, via a
consortium that also includes South African Petroleum Co, giving China
access to what could be 175,000 barrels a day by 2008. It's a $2.27
billion deal that gives state-controlled CNOOC a 45% stake in a large
off-shore oil field in Nigeria. Previously, Nigeria had been
considered in Washington to be an asset of the Anglo-American oil
majors, ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron.
China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest
or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa.
The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways,
hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity
demands of the IMF and World Bank. In 2006 China committed more than
$8 billion to Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique, versus $2.3 billion to
all sub-Saharan Africa from the World Bank. Ghana is negotiating a
$1.2 billion Chinese electrification loan. Unlike the World Bank, a de
facto arm of US foreign economic policy, China shrewdly attaches no
strings to its loans.
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation
from Washington that Beijing is trying to "secure oil at the sources",
something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with
for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of
China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
Sudan's oil riches
Beijing's China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is Sudan's largest
foreign investor, with some $5 billion in oil field development. Since
1999 China has invested at least $15 billion in Sudan. It owns 50% of
an oil refinery near Khartoum with the Sudan government. The oil
fields are concentrated in the south, site of a long-simmering civil
war, partly financed covertly by the United States to break the south
from the Islamic Khartoum-centered north.
CNPC built an oil pipeline from southern Sudan to a new terminal at
Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where the oil is loaded on tankers bound
for China. Eight percent of China's oil now comes from southern Sudan.
China takes 65-80% of Sudan's 500,000 barrels/day production. Sudan
last year was China's fourth-largest foreign oil source.
In 2006 China passed Japan to become the world's second-largest
importer of oil after the United States, importing 6.5 million barrels
a day of the black gold. With its oil demand growing by an estimated
30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few
years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in
A look at the southern Sudan oil concessions shows that China's CNPC
holds rights to bloc 6, which straddles Darfur, near the border with
Chad and the Central African Republic. In April 2005, Sudan's
government announced that it had found oil in Southern Darfur, which
is estimated to be able to pump 500,000 barrels per day when
developed. The world press forgot to report that vital fact in
discussing the Darfur conflict.
Move to militarize Sudan's oil region
Genocide was the preferred theme, and Washington was the orchestra
conductor. Curiously, while all observers acknowledge that Darfur has
seen a large human displacement and human misery, with tens of
thousands or even as many as 300,000 deaths in the last several years,
only Washington and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) close to
it use the charged term "genocide" to describe Darfur. If they are
able to get popular acceptance of the charge of genocide, it opens the
possibility of drastic "regime change" intervention by the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - read Washington - in Sudan's
The genocide theme is being used, with full-scale Hollywood backing
from the likes of stars like George Clooney, to orchestrate the case
for de facto NATO occupation of the region. So far the Sudan
government has vehemently refused, not surprisingly.
The US government repeatedly uses "genocide" to refer to Darfur. It is
the only government to do so. US Assistant Secretary of State Ellen
Sauerbrey, head of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration,
said during a USINFO online interview last November 17, "The ongoing
genocide in Darfur, Sudan - a gross violation of human rights - is
among the top international issues of concern to the United States."
The Bush administration keeps insisting that genocide has been going
on in Darfur since 2003, despite the fact that a five-person UN
mission led by Italian Judge Antonio Cassese reported in 2004 that
genocide had not been committed in Darfur but grave human rights
abuses were committed. They called for war crime trials.
Merchants of death
The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and
neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples' Liberation
Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at
the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia.
By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of
oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict
that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee
their homes. Eritrea hosts and supports the Sudan People's Liberation
Army (SPLA), the umbrella NDA opposition group, and the Eastern Front
and Darfur rebels.
There are two rebel groups fighting in Sudan's Darfur region against
the Khartoum central government of President Omar al-Bashir - the
Justice for Equality Movement and the larger Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).
In February 2003, the SLA launched attacks on Sudan government
positions in the Darfur region. SLA secretary-general Minni Arkou
Minnawi called for armed struggle, accusing the government of ignoring
Darfur. "The objective of the SLA is to
create a united democratic Sudan." In other words, regime change in
The US Senate adopted a resolution in February 2006 that requested
NATO troops in Darfur, as well as a stronger UN peacekeeping force
with a robust mandate. A month later, President George W Bush also
called for additional NATO forces in Darfur. Genocide? Or oil?
The Pentagon has been busy training African military officers in the
US, much as it has trained Latin American officers for decades. Its
International Military Education and Training program has provided
training to military officers from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon
and the Central African Republic.
Much of the arms that have fueled the killing in Darfur and the south
have been brought in via murky, protected private "merchants of death"
such as the notorious former KGB operative, now with offices in the
US, Victor Bout, who has been cited repeatedly in recent years for
selling weapons across Africa. US government officials strangely leave
his operations in Texas and Florida untouched despite the fact he is
on the Interpol wanted list for money laundering.
US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has
been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen. Oil
and the scramble for strategic raw materials is the clear reason. The
region of southern Sudan from the Upper Nile to the Chad border is
rich in oil. Washington knew that long before the Sudanese government.
Chevron's 1974 oil project
US oil majors have known about Sudan's oil wealth since the early
1970s. In 1979, Jafaar Nimeiry, Sudan's head of state, broke with the
Soviets and invited Chevron to develop the country's oil industry.
That was perhaps a fatal mistake. UN Ambassador George H W Bush had
personally told Nimeiry of satellite photos indicating oil in Sudan.
Nimeiry took the bait. Wars over oil have been the consequence ever
Chevron found big oil reserves in southern Sudan. It spent $1.2
billion finding and testing them. That oil triggered what is called
Sudan's second civil war in 1983. Chevron was the target of repeated
attacks and killings and it suspended the project in 1984. In 1992, it
sold its Sudanese oil concessions. Then China began to develop the
abandoned Chevron fields in 1999 with notable results.
But Chevron is not far from Darfur today.
Chad oil and pipeline politics
Condoleezza Rice's Chevron is in neighboring Chad, together with the
other US oil giant, ExxonMobil. They've just built a $3.7 billion oil
pipeline carrying 160,000 barrels per day from Doba in central Chad,
near Darfur, via Cameroon to Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for
To do it, they worked with Chad "President for life" Idriss Deby, a
corrupt despot who has been accused of feeding US-supplied arms to the
Darfur rebels. Deby joined Washington's Pan Sahel Initiative run by
the Pentagon's US-European Command, to train his troops to fight
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby
launched the initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. He
used members of his elite Presidential Guard, who come from the
province, providing them with all-terrain vehicles, arms and
anti-aircraft guns to aid Darfur rebels fighting the Khartoum
government in southwestern Sudan. The US military support to Deby in
fact had been the trigger for the Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted
and the ensuing debacle was unleashed in full, tragic force.
Washington-backed NGOs and the US government claim unproven genocide
as a pretext to ultimately bring UN/NATO troops into the oil fields of
Darfur and southern Sudan. Oil, not human misery, is behind
Washington's new interest in Darfur.
The "Darfur genocide" campaign began in 2003, the same time the
Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline began to flow. The US now had a base in
Chad to go after Darfur oil and, potentially, co-opt China's new oil
US military objectives in Darfur - and the Horn of Africa more widely
- are being served at present by US and NATO backing for African Union
(AU) troops in Darfur. There NATO provides ground and air support for
AU troops who are categorized as "neutral" and "peacekeepers". Sudan
is at war on three fronts, against Uganda, Chad, and Ethiopia, each
with a significant US military presence and ongoing US military
programs. The war in Sudan involves both US covert operations and US
trained "rebel" factions coming in from south Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia
Chad's Deby looks to China too
The completion of the US and World Bank-financed oil pipeline from
Chad to the Cameroon coast was designed as one part of a far grander
Washington scheme to control the oil riches of Central Africa from
Sudan to the entire Gulf of Guinea.
But Washington's erstwhile pal, Chad's Deby, began to get unhappy with
his small share of the US-controlled oil profits. When he and the Chad
parliament decided in early 2006 to take more of the oil revenues to
finance military operations and beef up its army, the new World Bank
president - and Iraq war architect - Paul Wolfowitz moved to suspend
loans to the country. Then that August, after Deby had won
re-election, he created Chad's own oil company, SHT, and threatened to
expel Chevron and Malaysia's Petronas for not paying taxes owed, and
demanded a 60% share of the Chad oil pipeline. In the end he came to
terms with the oil companies, but winds of change were blowing.
Deby also faces growing internal opposition from a Chad rebel group,
United Front for Change, known under its French name as FUC, which he
claims is being covertly funded by Sudan. The FUC has based itself in
Into this unstable situation, Beijing has shown up in Chad with a full
coffer of aid money in hand. In late January, Chinese President Hu
Jintao made a state visit to Sudan and Cameroon among other African
states. In 2006, China's leaders visited no fewer than 48 African
states. In August 2006, Beijing hosted Chad's foreign minister for
talks and resumption of formal diplomatic ties cut in 1997. China has
begun to import oil from Chad as well as Sudan.
Not that much oil, but if Beijing has its way, that will soon change.
This April, Chad's foreign minister announced that talks with China
over greater China participation in Chad's oil development were
"progressing well". He referred to the terms the Chinese seek for oil
development, calling them "much more equal partnerships than those we
are used to having".
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more
effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any
AU or UN troop presence ever could. That would not be welcome for some
people in Washington and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not
secure the oil.
Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast China effort to secure "oil
at the source" across Africa. Oil is also the prime factor in US
Africa policy today. George W Bush's interest in Africa includes a new
US base in Sao Tome/Principe, 124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea, from
which it can control Gulf of Guinea oil fields from Angola in the
south to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea,
Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to be the very same areas
where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment activity has focused.
"West Africa's oil has become of national strategic interest to us,"
stated US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner
back in 2002. Darfur and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq
policy "with other means" - control of oil everywhere. China is
challenging that control "everywhere", especially in Africa. It
amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.
F William Engdahl is author of the book, A Century of War:
Anglo-American Oil Politics, Pluto Press Ltd. His next book, Seeds of
Destruction: The Dark Side of Genetic engineering (Global Research
Publishing) will be released this June. He may be contacted via his
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