by BURKELY HERMANN
The black gooey substance, oil, that comes out of the ground always seems to have broad geopolitical implications. The U.S. attack on Syria was partly about oil and natural gas, but also about Syria’s relationship to Iran and its oil and gas. How does this play into South Sudan?
An article published in Chron on August 28th begins to tell this story: “President Barack Obama says he’s selected his outgoing ambassador to Ethiopia to be the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. Obama says Donald Booth will lead U.S. efforts to implement security agreements the two countries agreed to last year, including disputes over borders and oil. South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011, but tensions between the countries remain high, especially over their intertwined oil industries.” This openness surprised me, so I continued to do a bit more digging, finding that both America and China had imperial aims in South Sudan.
Starting on the White House website I found a number of results. One said that Ambassador Booth will “advance U.S. interests…including ensuring the uninterrupted flow of oil.” As I continued to search, the results just kept coming. A statement issued by the White House Press Secretary on an agreement between South Sudan and Sudan said the following: “I welcome the announcement by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel of an agreement between Sudan and South Sudan on oil revenue. This agreement opens the door to a future of greater prosperity for the people of both countries.” Around the same time, this development was noted in a readout of a call to the austerity-friendly President of Spain. It seemed like the posts connecting oil to South Sudan kept coming: a post in September 2012 described then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to South Sudan to discuss “security, oil and economic opportunity,” another was a readout of a call with the President of South Sudan in which Obama “emphasized the importance of South Sudan and Sudan reaching an agreement on oil,” how the spokesperson of the National Security Council urges that both Sudans make an agreement on oil and a statement from the White House Press Secretary saying that the peace agreement between the two countries has provisions to share “significant portions of Sudan’s oil wealth between north and south.” Then there’s a fact sheet supporting South Sudan highlighting that “agencies across the United States government have examined the tools they can bring to bear to propel development and investment in South Sudan…to ongoing support to assist the government of South Sudan to manage its oil sector transparently and take steps towards joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.” One of the most revealing is a joint statement by the US and South Sudanese governments in December 2011, noting that:
“The conference focused on several important themes central to this goal: responsible management of oil revenue and natural resources…In addition, participants discussed specific investment opportunities in sectors such as oil and renewable energy, information technology, agriculture, transportation infrastructure, clean water and sanitation, capacity building services, and financial services. South Sudan proposed and participants agreed that investments, international support and development assistance will be linked to national priorities.”
One must ask, what all of this talk about oil is really about anyway and its what I looked into next. The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) writes on a page about Sudan and South Sudan noting the background of the problems over oil, noting that most of the oil producing areas are “near or extend across the de facto border between Sudan and South Sudan” but that after South Sudan became independent over two years ago in July 2013, South Sudan “gained control over most of the oil production but…remain[ed] dependent on Sudan because it must use Sudan’s export pipelines and processing facilities.” The EIA continues, noting that after 15 months of on and off negotiations, “South Sudan restarted oil production in April 2013” but that “several unresolved issues remain and production may be curtailed again in the future,” problems which were confirmed by the New York Times, All Africa, AP and BBC. Oil is so important to the governments of South Sudan and Sudan: “oil represented around 57 percent of Sudan’s total government revenue and around 78 percent of export earnings in 2011, while it represented around 98 percent of total government revenues for South Sudan in 2011.” That’s pretty important, considering both countries have over 5 billion in proven crude oil reserves with 70% of them residing in South Sudan. That’s not all, but there are also “natural gas…proven reserves of 3 trillion cubic feet” in the two countries as well. The EIA also lists the major oil companies that have a stake in the two countries: “International oil companies…primarily from Asia, dominate the oil sectors in both countries. They are led by CNPC, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Malaysia’s Petronas.” As a result, its no surprise that “China is the leading export destination for crude oil from Sudan and South Sudan.” There also supposedly a pipeline that “would reduce South Sudan’s reliance on Sudan, but the pipeline’s construction could take at least two years.”
What the EIA is confirmed by many sources. A while back, BBC Business tweeted that “China’s biggest oil company signs a deal with Sudan to look for oil and gas on the coast of the Red Sea.” Around the same time, BBC News noted that “a Darfur rebel group says it has attacked and taken over a Chinese-run oil field in central Sudan.” Additionally, as I tweeted recently, “China could become an arbitrator for oil the US wants.” It seems the oil sharing is a bit complex as South Sudan passed 25% of its revenues to Sudan as noted by a recent Reuters article. A recent BBC article while noting that Sudan would not shut off oil production also noted that “South Sudan took with it nearly three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production when it declared independence following decades of conflict.” Also there’s an article where Henry Odwar, the Chairperson of the South Sudan’s Committee of Energy, Mining, Commerce & Industry, part of the National Legislative Assembly, tells Reuters straight out that: “The fact is, oil belongs to South Sudan and China needs oil.” In a PDF prepared by him as posted on a website associated with the World Bank, Odwar writes that “The Republic of South Sudan…Became the member of the IFC /World Bank Group on 18- April-2012…We possess a democratic constitutional framework and legal order that…encourages free market and prohibition of monopoly…Protection and ensure the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources…Facilitate and development of the private sector…Promotion of private sector initiative and self-reliance…Promotion of agricultural, industrial and technological development…the law does not treat a foreign investor differently from a local investor…Section 35 empowers the government to protect the intellectual property rights of all persons and investors… [we] share petroleum exploitation infrastructure [with Sudan]…Priority is private sector development, attraction and retention of investments.” A post on UN Dispatch gives some more background noting that: “Oil in Sudan has been a problematic issue ever since it was discovered in the south in the 1970s…Oil revenue now accounts for about 98% of South Sudan’s economy, and 90% of hard currency in the north…The Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 stipulated that the north and south were to share the income from oil production 50/50 from July 2005 to July 2011. Chinese companies are a critical force in the exploitation of oil…new investors from South Korea, Japan, China, UAE, US, and Spain have already started knocking on South Sudan’s door with proposals for infrastructure and energy projects, including hydropower plants.” This seems to be the case when you consider that in March 2013, “Oil trader Trafigura, a dealer in Sudanese oil long before the nation split, has signed an export agreement with the South…The Switzerland-based firm, which corporate filings show gets nearly 30 percent of its oil turnover from Africa, is the world’s third biggest trader in raw materials.” Jon Temin and Raymond Gilpin add to this in a post on the United States Institute of Peace’s website. They wrote in January 2012 that “South Sudan is eager to build an alternative pipeline – likely through Kenya – so that they do not have to send their oil through Sudan and negotiate transit fees with their long-time adversaries…The proposed pipeline would go through Kenya in a south-, south-easterly direction, avoiding the troubled northeastern region that is historically home to the Somali and Sakuye groups. Those groups have agitated for self-determination for decades, and that is currently the epicenter of [terrorist group] al Shabaab activity…Some investors from China, South Korea and Japan are reported to have expressed an interest in this investment.” This view is confirmed by a post in the Daily Maverick saying that “a Kenyan pipeline would free it from dependence on the hated regime in Khartoum and draw it closer to its East African regional neighbours, with whom Juba is increasingly finding common cause.” Still, Luke Patey tweeted that “Oil will flow b/t #SouthSudan and #Sudan, but oil industry view form Juba is to invest w/ caution. 2012 shutdown badly damaged confidence.”
With China so heavily involved in South Sudan it seems that the United States would not be involved. This is wrong. Anti-Flag sang about this in their song, AFRICOM: “They make a profit off the death they sell/They make a killing off the lies they tell/From the coast of Kenya and Somalia, to the Darfur region to Nigeria/Oppression, murder, and pain for U.S. imperial gain…Resources inspire of bringing a death knell…It’s time, it’s time, whoa, it’s time to fight for rights.” I elaborated on this on an article in CounterPunch back in January saying that the wars in Mali and Libya were in part over oil and reprinting a quote by Michael T. Klare, a defense correspondent for The Nation magazine about AFRICOM (Africa Command): its creation “in my view is directly related the growing importance of African oil in the United States.” Mark P. Fancher wrote back in December 2008 that “U.S. policy would be much easier if it were feasible to send troops in to effect a regime change. U.S. sanctions against Sudan’s current leadership bar U.S. oil companies from maintaining operations in that country, while other countries (most notably China) are very active there and make very large profits. U.S. frustration over its helplessness in Sudan most likely led the U.S. to stand virtually alone in the world when it characterized mass killings and torture in the Darfur region as “genocide”” and is part of what I call the Darfur lie.
Abayomi Azikiwe added to this, written on Black Agenda Report in April 2012 that “One report indicates that South Sudan is seeking funding from the People’s Republic of China to build a new pipeline…The United States under successive administrations has taken a hostile position towards Sudan. The Obama administration was a major proponent of the partition of the country. Although the Obama administration has a public posture that calls for calm between the two countries and the resumption of negotiations, in actuality the U.S. administration is seeking the overthrow of the NCP government in Khartoum…Since China is the major player in the oil industry in both South Sudan and Sudan, increasing hostility and instability would provide Washington with greater opportunities to intervene and lay claim to the vast resources inside both countries.” Around the same time, Glen Ford, the Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report wrote that “who does have influence on South Sudan? That would be, overwhelmingly, the United States, which supported South Sudan’s secessionist movement for more than a generation and steamrolled African and international opinion into accepted the dismemberment of what had been the continent’s largest country…No sooner had South Sudan declared itself independent, than President Obama devised an excuse to move U.S. Special Forces into the country – one of the poorest on Earth, if you don’t count the oil. Green Berets now operate in South Sudan and neighboring Uganda, Congo, and the Central African Republic. American money keeps the Sudanese army equipped and paid…Well, it looks like Obama and the cowboy-hatted President Kiir reached their own agreement: to seize the North’s oil fields. South Sudan is a U.S. client state that owes its independence to the U.S. and Europeans and Israel, which was deeply involved in the Sudanese civil war.” Bruce Dixon adds to this with an article back from 2007 noting that “Sudan sits atop lakes of oil. It has large supplies of uranium, and other minerals, significant water resources,and a strategic location near still more African oil and resources…Sudan, and the Darfur region in particular, sit atop a lake of oil…Chinese banks, oil and construction firms are making the loans, drilling the wells, laying the pipelines to take Sudanese oil where they intend it to go, calling far too many shots for a twenty-first century in which the U.S. aspires to control the planet’s energy supplies. A U.S. and NATO military intervention will solve that problem for U.S. planners.”
Dixon in another article gives a bit more context: “nobody doubts the American military buildup on the African continent is well underway…US admirals and generals have been landing and taking off, meeting with local officials…In other words, it’s about the oil. And the diamonds, and the uranium, and the coltan. But mostly about the oil…Increasingly it’s African oil that keeps the US running…A foretaste of American plans for African people and resources in the new century can be seen in Eastern Nigeria…It’s time…to keep AFRICOM and the US military off the African continent.” This build up has continued, as a recent article by Nick Turse on Tom Dispatch notes that “Out of public earshot, officers running America’s secret wars say: “Africa is the battlefield of tomorrow, today.”…taken as a whole, U.S. military operations are sweeping and expansive…An investigation by TomDispatch has found recent U.S. military involvement with no fewer than 49 African nations…Many African nations are home to multiple U.S. military projects…Drone bases are also expanding…When it comes to expanding U.S. outposts in Africa, the Navy has also been active…certain key “African” bases are actually located off the continent…the U.S. military, according to TomDispatch’s analysis, is involved with more than 90% of Africa’s 54 nations…there are, in fact, very few limits on where the U.S. military operates in Africa.” Clearly, this is a sign that blood for oil is being spilled in South Sudan and across the continent.
Maybe this was even part of a pattern as a twitter user Shoq noted: “Conservatives wanted to save Iraq and Sudan, both of which have oil, but junk Haiti, which doesn’t. I’m sensing a pattern.” An article in CounterPunch by Michael Klare noted exactly this warning that the “conviction of ruling elites around the world that the possession of energy assets — especially oil and gas deposits — is essential to prop up national wealth, power, and prestige…The world has long been bifurcated between energy-surplus and energy-deficit states…The seeds of energy conflicts and war sprouting in so many places simultaneously suggest that we are entering a new period in which key state actors will be more inclined to employ force — or the threat of force — to gain control over valuable deposits of oil and natural gas. In other words, we’re now on a planet heading into energy overdrive.” After all, as the Fear Department notes on twitter, for the US, national security “concerns the defense of the rights of our corporate partners.” Additionally, as an article in Dissident Voice noted something that is seemingly true with regard to geopolitics in Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world: “President Obama became “oiled,” and would work in the interest of Big Oil due to its campaign contributions to his presidential election campaign…President Obama is on the side of Big Oil and is subsequently an “oiled” President. Until the President admits that he is more on the side of the world’s large oil corporations than the middle class, he will continue rhetoric that seems to speak for all Americans.”
There is something deeper though. That is that climate change is causing such conflicts. Already numerous articles, which are dismissed by those with their heads filled with climate change denial propaganda, have said that the war is Syria was caused by a warming climate! In a recent interview, Francesco Femia, a co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security said that “Climate change primarily manifests itself through water. But it varies; different kinds of water, different ways. It can lead to more extreme weather events: either a drought or a major storm or an amount of rainfall that’s unusual and leads to flooding. It’s not just scarcity, it’s too much, too little and unpredictably…And then with salt water you have the problem of sea level rise and ocean acidification. Sea level rise is likely to devastate infrastructure along the coastlines, but it will also have a significant impact on freshwater and the economies that are tied to coastal infrastructure, which go far inland in many countries…Obviously, arctic melt is going to affect the movement of goods…Climate change is going to have security implications across the globe and conflict is just one area of concern…. I’d say the U.S., by elevating this issue in its national security thinking, should prioritize devoting resources to both adapting to climate change itself and to helping countries that are vulnerable adapt to climate impacts…It will cost us a lot more in the long term if we do nothing now.” In the end, while Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967 that problems of poverty and social progress are ignored when “the guns of war become a national obsession” and that America’s war policy creates worldwide discontent, his words about what we should do to counter this is something that should be heeded: “We must demonstrate, teach and preach, until the very foundations of our nation are shaken. We must work unceasingly to lift this nation that we love to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humaneness…We still have a choice today, non-violent co-existence or violent co-annihilation. History will record the choice we made. It is still not too late to make the proper choice.”