Monday, June 30, 2008

Oil in the Horn and local politics

Oil in the Horn of Africa (I) - Lundin and Range Resources in Way Over Their Heads

Among its areas of operation, Lundin Petroleum counts Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia, countries whose displaced populations total some 7,200,000 persons, according to 2007 figures of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. These displaced populations face some of the greatest civilian-directed violence and food insecurity in the world (see food security maps for Darfur and Somalia). This is neither incidental nor accidental. Conflict over areas of oil discovery are a proximate cause in further fueling many conflicts in the Horn.

While Lundin Petroleum has a well-articulated code of conduct committing itself to values of human rights and to principles including "minimising disturbances that may be caused by our operations," Lundin has directly contributed to mass displacement, whether knowingly or not, and has largely failed to consider the larger and darker military-industrial implications of their exploration and drilling.

Lundin's plans for expansion of its operations in the 5A concession in South Sudan in 2000 were
coordinated with a government offensive that year, pitting government-armed Nuer militias against SPLA Nuer forces, as villages were cleared and tens of thousands displaced. In an interview at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Diane de Guzman, who served as a UNICEF coordinator in South Sudan, spoke of the displacements from the Lundin oil concession, stating that none of the displaced ever received humanitarian assistance. During government bombing of villages, elderly and children were left behind. These persons died when their villages were bombed and then razed by troops: "What we've found is happening now is that the government troops are actually coming in and burning down the entire village. We heard reports of this in the northern areas of Ruweng county when Talisman Oil began their exploration, but now we're also getting the same reports further south in Leech state in Western Upper Nile, closer to the Lundin oil exploration."

An admission of Lundin security officer Richard Ramsey in 2000 confirmed that Lundin was in over its head, unable to assure adherence to its ethical standards or obtain information on how their operations were affecting the security situation of the local populations. In the midst of the government's dry season offensive, Ramsey admitted that Lundin "was not allowed to talk to SSIM [government militias], for some reason I do not know. As a result we can not know exactly when they are going to attack somewhere, and most often we don't find out the reason until afterwards."

Today, Lundin still
holds a 24.5% interest in the block 5B concession in Sudan, and moreover operates in another area suffering from repressive counter-insurgency, a Somali region of Ethiopia known as the Ogaden. As if Lundin's aggravation of the Ogaden crisis and the related Ethiopian-Mogadishu Group war weren't enough to dissuade investors, Somali Ogaden National Liberation Front forces killed 74 people at a Chinese-run oil field in April 2007.

Lundin is now a major shareholder in Africa Oil, which bought an 80% interest in Range Resources' exploration project in Puntland, Somalia. Africa Oil has invested $20 million in the Puntland project, and will invest another $25 more over the next six months.

In a 2006 video, a delegation from Range Resources is shown meeting with the regional Puntland government, which it presents with a $250,000 check for airport improvement. Last Friday, June 27, Executive Director of Range Resources Peter Landau attempted to assure a crowd of investors in Australia of the semi-autonomous status of Puntland, distinguishing it from southern zones now in a state of complex emergency.

Range Resources's own 2006 video holds a clue to why this is not exactly true: present at the meeting is the former president of Puntland, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, whose Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government is involved in a violent power struggle with the Eritrean-backed Mogadishu group of business militias, clans, and courts, a struggle that left millions presently displaced and in threat of mass starvation.

As badly as Somalia needs economic development, oil exploration at this time could worsen what is now perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis on the globe. The Australians of Range Resources are seriously misguided, and will be outmaneuvered in the Somali political landscape. Range Resources is now involved in
assisting Puntland in "security programs." By setting up their own local militia (which has only recently come under fatal attack in Puntland itself, as surveyors were on a sampling mission), Range Resources raises the stakes in an already high-stakes game of Somali Roulette, one that already is being played out to disastrous effect elsewhere. 


source: Stand Strong 29/06/08


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