Rapacious Instincts in Sudan
Other "in-kind trading," especially between Sudan and China--arms for oil and anticipated oil revenues--has been documented in various reports, including a detailed compendium from Human Rights Watch. Reports from the ground indicate that as much as 75 percent of weaponry captured from Khartoum's forces is of Chinese manufacture. Not coincidentally, China is now a net importer of oil, with consumption growing at about 10 percent a year. And Sudan is China's premiere offshore oil source.
In order to provide security for the Greater Nile partners, the Khartoum regime has orchestrated a campaign of scorched-earth warfare around the vast oil development project, as well as future concession areas, in the south. In western Upper Nile Province and adjacent areas, more than 100,000 people have been killed or cleared from their land and homes. Amnesty's reporting on this devastation has been echoed by the findings of the UN Special Rapporteurs for Sudan, as well as by a report commissioned by the Canadian foreign ministry and by journalists.
To be sure, Sudan's civil war is a nightmare of complexity--a reflection of the country's religious, ethnic and racial diversity. As journalist William Finnegan put it, reflecting on the legacy of British and Egyptian rule, Sudan is a country "whose borders seem to have been perversely drawn, sealing enough ethnic and historical enmity within them to insure a future of civil war."
The National Islamic Front looks to the Islamic and Arabic world for cultural and racial identity. Moreover, its view of the Nilotic and Equatorian peoples of the south is animated by a vicious racism: The most common term of designation in Arabic is abid, which translates almost exactly as "nigger." Such attitudes do much to explain why Khartoum has actively abetted a modern slave trade, directed against the racially "African" people of the south. Tens of thousands of Sudanese live the lives of chattel slaves.
These Nilotic and Equatorian peoples are often at odds with one another in the difficult environment of the south, and Khartoum has proved masterful in exploiting tribal animosities. Even so, the opposition groups are formidable military adversaries, and the conflict in much of the south continues to be intense. What becomes ever clearer is the central role of oil development, both in generating further conflict and in providing the revenues that prevent good-faith negotiations by Khartoum.
Culpable as the Greater Nile partners are in this regard, there is a good deal more corporate responsibility for the ongoing destruction of Sudan. For example, when China National Petroleum Corporation sought an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, the investment bank Goldman Sachs willingly offered its services. And when the Sudan controversy began to stalk the deal, Goldman expediently restructured it, creating a factitious "domestic" unit of China National called "PetroChina." No matter that the IPO still sent almost $300 million directly to China National, and no matter that governance of "PetroChina" is entirely by China National (which also receives 90 percent of all "PetroChina" profits). But as the issue moved forward, the market became queasy. A broad, well-organized coalition opposed the deal; it included not only Sudan activists but also Tibet activists and organized labor in the form of the AFL-CIO. The last took an unprecedented stand in opposing the IPO, an action that will continue to define the terms of foreign entrance, especially on matters of labor rights and fairness, into US capital markets.