The International Institute for Inter-Religious, Multiethnic and Middle-East Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana has specially for the September issue of “Obramba” (“Defence Monthly”), a Slovenian professional journal dealing with defence-military issues, prepared an analysis of events going on in Sudan. The most interesting sections of the analysis are given below.
SUDAN: TERRORISM YESTERDAY, OIL TODAY
During the 1990s, Sudan was of central interest to the world public, since this poor country, though rich in unexploited resources, gave shelter to Osama bin Laden after he lost his Saudi citizenship. In Sudan, the idea of al-Quaeda developed and reached its final stage – realisation and establishment of the infrastructure network. The Saudi millionaire took good advantage of the welcome expressed by the then Islamic Sheriat government led by Alturabi. He invested money in the construction of religious schools and some factories, especially pharmaceutical plants in Khartoum, thus gaining the ultimate favour of the government and especially of the Sudanese people.
Osama bin Laden was exiled from Sudan under the pressures of the USA and different targets in Sudan were bombed including a pharmaceutical plant and terrorist training centres in Khartoum (1998). In 1997, the UNO Security Council sanctions were introduced. America started to openly support the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which has been fighting the Sudanese government back since 1983.
Today, Sudan is of central interest due to the Machakos peace agreement (Kenya, 20 July 2002) between the SPLA and the Sudanese government, which is perhaps one of the results of the antiterrorist fight after 11 September. The Sudanese government has namely finally shown understanding about the south regarding its autonomy and changed relations with the central government in Khartoum. The peace agreement at the same time represents a serious step towards the end of bloody violence between the Muslims and the Christians. However, it contains only certain complex issues such as the state and religion while the issues of oil revenue and of the borderline between the north and the south remain open and perhaps a hard nut to crack. The South does not recognise the administrative border drawn by the British and strives to gain certain territories in the east and west of the country. Basically, the agreement envisages a six-year transitional period followed by a referendum on self-determination of the south. The central government has committed itself to increase investments in this part of the country in order to encourage the people of the south to vote for unity of the state after the interim period of six years expires.
All sides are in favour of the ultimate peace. At the meeting of Christian churches (organised by the World Church Council) in Kenyan Kosom, the SPLA agreed under the pressure of WCC to continue talks in Machakos (in November this year). General John Garang said that the south would vote for unity if the relations in this part of the country changed significantly.
In relation to the issue of Sudan we should not forget that we have seen yet no end to mutual accusations between Israel and Sudan. Sudan is accusing Israel of providing weapons to and training the SPLA members. As Israel's ally, Eritreia is actively involved in this activity providing logistic support to the SPLA. On the other hand, Israel is accusing Sudan of training Palestinian engineers from the Hamas terrorist group for the preparation of explosives. The IFIMES Institute believes the truth about these mutual accusations is to be found on both sides.
AMERICAN INTEREST IN SUDAN
Due to oil stocks in Sudan, especially in the south, Chinese and European companies have been offensively penetrating this country. The USA have become interested in these movements. President Bush has named special US envoy for Sudan, John Danforth, former influential Republican senator from Missoury. The USA have shown strong interest in being present in the region as well as stabilising the situation and restoring bilateral relations with the country which, not long ago, supported terrorism but has now become member of the world antiterrorist coalition.
Sudan has rich intact oil stocks. Beyond doubt, oil was never only an economic and commercial category but always related to the context of politics and its geopolitical goals and interests. Since 1974, the American oil company Chevron held the concession for oil for as many as 40 sites in Sudan. Daily production was 120,000 barrels oil. In 1984, Chevron ceased its operations due to political (the USA government pressures) and security (SPLA attacks) reasons.
In 1991, the new government of Islam solution acted in two directions: firstly, exploitation of Abu Jariba oil fields where Chevron had its concessions, and secondly, establishing contacts with companies which are not under the influence of the USA. These actions were supported by a private Sudanese company Concorp. The first contract was concluded with the Canadian State Petrolium. Later, a consortium for oil exploitation was established with the following stakes: 40% China (National Oil Corporation), 30% Malaysia (Petronas), 25% Canada (Talisman) and 5% Sudanese government. The oil consortium built the port in Baasher, from where 160,000 barrels oil are exported daily while the rest is left for domestic use. The arrival of Asian tigers, such as China and Malaysia, and announced appearance of European companies (Russian, Austrian and Swedish) have, of course, provoked the Americans. Those companies namely not only develop oil industry but also construct roads, bridges, electrification, and plan and build communications, water supply systems etc. The most interesting is Chinese penetration, which is actually an offensive. Obviously, China is not interested only in oil but also in being constantly present in the area from where it can easily control the Red Sea as the artery through which all sea routes for oil lead to Europe. China therefore has political and military interests in this strategic area.
The national Chinese oil corporation plans to triple the production by the year 2005 to reach 15 million tons. Namely, China has no own large oil resources and is therefore looking for solution to this problem abroad.
The USA should therefore, through special envoy, former senator Danforht, act quickly and effectively and treat equally both, the formerly rebel SPLA and the Sudanese government. American sanctions against the twelve Sudanese companies (of 22 October 2002) and aid to the South in the amount of 100 million dollars annually for the next five years are probably the right direction to follow before the November peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the SPLA in Kenya take place.
The IFIMES Institute believes that American Administration should not attribute great importance to the African lobby in its Congress. Special envoy for Sudan, former senator Danforth should continue his peace mission not only in the political but also economic sense. This is the only way for the Americans to balance the Chinese penetration which could have a negative influence on the Sudanese people and consequently on the peace in the region. The American authority will definitely positively effect the future peace negotiations, which should go beyond the influence of religious communities (muftis and the Catholic church of Sudan).
The Republic of Sudan covers 2,505,810 km2; Inhabitants: 37.090.298; Religious structure of inhabitants: 70% Muslims (Sunnites), 25% animists, 5% Christians; BDP: USD 1,360 Labour force: 11 million, of which 43% in agriculture, 17% in industry, 40% in service industry.