Christian Science Monitor has run two very important reports on China and its relationship with Sudan, something I had written about in the past:
Sudan’s oil production averages 536,000 barrels a day, according to estimates by the Paris-based International Energy Agency. Other estimates say it is closer to 750,000 barrels a day. And there is an estimated 5 billion-barrel reservoir of oil beneath Sudan’s 1 million-square-mile surface, almost all of it in the south of the country, an area inhabited mainly by Christian and animist black Africans who fought a 21-year civil war against the Arab-dominated Muslim government of the north.
The vast majority of this oil, 64 percent, is sold to China, now the world’s second-largest consumer of oil. And while neither Khartoum, China, nor Petrodar release any statistics – this is generally believed to be an oil deal worth at least $2 billion a year.
China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is the majority shareholder in both Petrodar and the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, two of the biggest oil consortiums in Sudan.
CNPC has invested billions in oil-related infrastructure here in Paloich, including the 900-mile pipeline from the Paloich oil fields to the tanker terminal at Port Sudan on the Red Sea, a tarmac road leading to Khartoum, and a new airport with connecting flights to Beijing.
But they have not invested in much else here.
Locals live in meager huts, eating peanuts with perch fished out of the contaminated Nile. There is no electricity. A Swiss charity provides healthcare. An American aid group flies in food and mosquito nets. Most children do not go to school. There is no work to be found. Petrodar, for one, has its own workers – almost all of whom are foreigners (mostly Chinese, Malaysians, and Qataris) or Sudanese northerners. The consortium hires Paloich residents only rarely, for menial jobs.
h/t Desde el Exilio.
And remember the Sudanese genocide in Darfur? Well, err:
Mercenaries are scooping up contracts here. Arms dealers are flying in and out on the daily flight from Nairobi, Kenya. And the rebels, theoretically out of work, are training full time on the dunes around Juba, South Sudan’s self-proclaimed capital.
Up north, in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, weapons arsenals are filling up, talk is tough, and clear signals are being sent out that the resource-rich south will never be allowed to be independent.
More than two years after the north-south peace agreement, and four years before the expected southern referendum on secession – it’s a matter of time, say observers, before the fragile calm blows up, reigniting the 21-year civil war that left 1.5 million dead.
“It’s a lull in which both sides are regrouping for the new war,” says a Canadian UN military observer stationed in South Sudan, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the Darfur crisis that has killed more than 200,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million in western Sudan continues to rage unabated, helping Sudan earn the top spot on Foreign Policy magazine’s “Failed State Index” for the second year in a row.
The Chinese are as much to blame for this situation as anyone, say critics, and not so much because of their economic policies but because of political ones.
Beijing has “a vested interest in the continuation of a low level of insecurity. It keeps the other major investors out,” charges the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) in a report. The report argues that China welcomes the absence of real peace in Sudan as enhancing its business opportunities, whatever the cost to southern Sudanese civilians: “There is [on the part of the Chinese] an almost total disregard for the human rights implications of their investments.”
This is unacceptable to leaders of the semiautonomous south who say they won’t sit idly by while revenue from Chinese drilling in their oil fields goes mostly to the Arab-dominated government in the north.
“This peace is ugly,” says Daniel Deng Moyndit, a former rebel who now chairs the Government of South Sudan’s parliamentary security committee. “They [Khartoum government officials] are not serious … and any state is entitled to defense in anticipation of aggression.”
Despite this, “China doesn’t want another government in charge,” adds a Khartoum-based humanitarian aid worker, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They’re used to dealing with this government.”
While pockets of South Sudan are seeing some economic benefits from the shaky peace, the region in general is shortchanged. The main sore point has to do with years of underdevelopment and a perception that oil revenues are not being shared fairly.
Under the peace deal between north and south, oil profits are to be shared: 50 percent to the south, 48 percent to the north, and 2 to the specific oil-producing areas. But many in South Sudan say this agreement is not being implemented fairly.
Read both. They are very important.