What imperialists don’t say
Oil is behind struggle in Darfur
Published Apr 27, 2006 9:49 AM
The mass media in the U.S., France and Britain are
writing a great deal about the suffering in the Darfur region of western Sudan
and the tensions between the Sudanese government and neighboring Chad. Not
surprisingly, they write very little about the economic interests these three
imperialist countries have in the oil recently discovered in this part of
Chad, which was once a French colony and still is occupied by
French troops, is accusing Sudan of supporting and encouraging an April 14 raid
on its capital, Ndjamena. It is threatening to expel 200,000 Sudanese living in
Chad who get their support from the office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Sudan—which at one time was a
British colony, but has since been using its oil to develop an independent
economy—charges that Chad has been supporting rebellion in Darfur. Sudan
wants the UNHCR to financially support the 15,000 Chadians who have fled to
Sudan recently to escape heavy fighting in eastern Chad.
fighting in eastern Chad at the end of March resulted in the combat death of
Chadian Army commander Brig. Gen. Abakar Youssouf Mahamat Itno, underlining the
China plays a different role
known to have major yet untapped oil reserves, representing a vast amount of
potential wealth at a time when crude oil has risen to nearly $75 a
While France and the U.S. are the only two imperialist countries
with significant military forces in Africa, Britain still plays a major
diplomatic and political role there, generally in coordination with
China plays a different role. The Western imperialists see
China as their growing competitor for Sudan’s oil.
actually helped Sudan’s economic development while serving its own needs
According to a Dec. 23, 2004, report in the Washington Post,
China National Petro leum Corp. (CNPC), owned by the Chinese government,
invested $300 million in an expansion of Sudan’s largest refinery,
doubling its output. The refinery now supplies most of Sudan’s petroleum
The CNPC also began trial production of oil at a field in southern
Darfur in 2004 and has a 41-percent share of the oil from a field in the Melut
Basin. Another Chinese firm, Sinopec Corp., built a 1,000-mile pipeline from
that complex to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where China’s Petroleum
Engineering Construction Group has built a tanker terminal.
All in all,
China buys about two-thirds of Sudan’s oil.
U.S. policy: divide
After Sudan achieved its formal independence from Britain in
1956, the country went through a period of internal struggles. Beginning in the
1970s Sudan began moving in a radical Islamic direction, rejecting the
neocolonial relations that the United States and other European powers wanted to
A well-organized and well-financed rebellion in southern Sudan
began soon after. The United States supported the south financially, politically
and militarily in order to divide and conquer. By tightening an economic embargo
on the Sudanese government, the U.S. could also exert economic pressure.
Washington even went so far as military attacks, like the cruise missile
strike in 1998 that blew up the only pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. No proof was
ever offered to back up the imperialist pretext that the plant manufactured
chemical weapons, or that Sudan was somehow connected to terrorist bombings in
Kenya and Tanzania.
A delegation led by former U.S. Attorney General
Ramsey Clark of the International Action Center visited the ruins of the plant
and confirmed that it had simply been making medicines.
In 2005, the
central government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement—the
group which led the struggle in the south—ratified an agreement. The
settlement granted the south substantial auto nomy, a 50-50 split of oil
revenues and a referendum on full independence within six years. China was
instrumental in the negotiations for this peace agreement.
Sudanese settled this conflict, the imperialists needed another one to keep up
the threats and pressure on Sudan.
Washington foments division
Drought and the subsequent encroachment of the desert have led to
fighting over grazing and water rights in Darfur, which escalated in 2003 into a
major conflict. The fighting has grown so intense that tens of thousands of
people are reported to have died and 200,000 to have fled across the border into
Two competing armed movements—the Sudanese Liberation Army and
the Movement for Justice and Equality—won some early victories against the
Sudanese Army. These two armed movements maintained their logistic and training
bases in the eastern part of Chad, near the border with Darfur.
rebellion in Darfur began, the Sudanese government set up counter-militias,
called Jinjaweed, recruited from nomadic ethnic groups in Darfur who main ly
speak Arabic. The Sudanese Liberation Army and the Movement for Justice and
Equality recruited from ethnic groups in Darfur who don’t use
The U.S. government, among others, is trying to exacerbate these
differences by defining this conflict as between “Arab vs. black.”
Washington has accused Sudan of “genocide” and “ethnic
cleansing.” However, Paul Moorcraft, a British expert on Sudan, points
out, “Darfur’s Arabs are black, indigenous African
Muslims—just like Darfur’s non-Arabs.”
The African Union
has 7,000 troops in Darfur trying to keep the peace. But the imperialist powers
want more direct control by replacing the African Union forces with either NATO
or UN troops in order to further imperialist interests in the region and to deny
the Sudanese control over their own territory.
Propaganda for NATO
The New York Times, whose right-wing columnist Nicholas
D. Kristof just won a Pulitzer prize for demanding U.S. intervention in Darfur,
supplies the liberal cover for imperialist troop deployment.
groups, the American Jewish World Service and the Jewish Council for Public
Affairs, have taken a very active role in building a national rally set for
April 30 whose main demand is direct U.S. intervention in Darfur to “stop
the genocide.” The AJWS is pushing to replace the African Union soldiers
in Darfur with 20,000 UN or NATO troops.
But that would require the
approval of the UN Security Council. China is very likely to veto any such
resolution. So the U.S. and Britain are stepping up their propaganda against
Sudan and against China’s significant support and investment
France, the main competing imperialist power in Africa, is
concerned about Sudan. But its real worry is Chad and its oil, which is
currently being extracted by a consortium led by ExxonMobil. France is concerned
that a key part of its sphere of influence in Africa is shrinking.
World Bank has forced a deal on Chad that restricts how that country can spend
its oil revenue and that limits its oil income per barrel to $10 to $15 less
than world market prices. (Jeune Afrique, April 16-22)
Opposition to the
World Bank oil deal is growing in Chad. And many Chadians also resent the fact
that French soldiers are still guarding government buildings 45 years after
The U.S. want to get President Déby out and a new
president in who relies on it, not France. The very day of the attack on
Ndjamena, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick called on Chad to adopt
a “different political process” and to reach a “satisfactory
arrangement” with the political opposition. Undersecretary of State for
African Affairs Donald Yamamoto began a two-day visit there on April 24.
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