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Darfur: Forget genocide, there's oil By F William Engdahl
create a united democratic Sudan." In other words, regime change in
The US Senate adopted a resolution in February 2006 that requested NATO troops
in Darfur, as well as a stronger UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate. A
month later, President George W Bush also called for additional NATO forces
in Darfur. Genocide? Or oil?
The Pentagon has been busy training African military officers in the US, much
as it has trained Latin American officers for decades. Its International
Military Education and Training program has provided training to military
officers from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon and the Central African
Much of the arms that have fueled the killing in Darfur and the south have been
brought in via murky, protected private "merchants of death" such as the
notorious former KGB operative, now with offices in the US, Victor Bout, who
has been cited repeatedly in recent years for selling weapons across Africa. US
government officials strangely leave his operations in Texas and Florida
untouched despite the fact he is on the Interpol wanted list for money
US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut
sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen. Oil and the scramble
for strategic raw materials is the clear reason. The region of southern Sudan
from the Upper Nile to the Chad border is rich in oil. Washington knew that
long before the Sudanese government.
Chevron's 1974 oil project
US oil majors have known about Sudan's oil wealth since the early 1970s. In
1979, Jafaar Nimeiry, Sudan's head of state, broke with the Soviets and invited
Chevron to develop the country's oil industry. That was perhaps a fatal
mistake. UN Ambassador George H W Bush had personally told Nimeiry of satellite
photos indicating oil in Sudan. Nimeiry took the bait. Wars over oil have been
the consequence ever since.
Chevron found big oil reserves in southern Sudan. It spent $1.2 billion finding
and testing them. That oil triggered what is called Sudan's second civil war in
1983. Chevron was the target of repeated attacks and killings and it suspended
the project in 1984. In 1992, it sold its Sudanese oil concessions. Then China
began to develop the abandoned Chevron fields in 1999 with notable results.
But Chevron is not far from Darfur today.
Chad oil and pipeline politics
Condoleezza Rice's Chevron is in neighboring Chad, together with the other US
oil giant, ExxonMobil. They've just built a $3.7 billion oil pipeline carrying
160,000 barrels per day from Doba in central Chad, near Darfur, via Cameroon to
Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for US refineries.
To do it, they worked with Chad "President for life" Idriss Deby, a corrupt
despot who has been accused of feeding US-supplied arms to the Darfur rebels.
Deby joined Washington's Pan Sahel Initiative run by the Pentagon's US-European
Command, to train his troops to fight "Islamic terrorism".
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby launched the
initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. He used members of his
elite Presidential Guard, who come from the province, providing them with
all-terrain vehicles, arms and anti-aircraft guns to aid Darfur rebels fighting
the Khartoum government in southwestern Sudan. The US military support to Deby
in fact had been the trigger for the Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted and the
ensuing debacle was unleashed in full, tragic force.
Washington-backed NGOs and the US government claim unproven genocide as a
pretext to ultimately bring UN/NATO troops into the oil fields of Darfur and
southern Sudan. Oil, not human misery, is behind Washington's new interest in
The "Darfur genocide" campaign began in 2003, the same time the Chad-Cameroon
oil pipeline began to flow. The US now had a base in Chad to go after Darfur
oil and, potentially, co-opt China's new oil sources.
US military objectives in Darfur - and the Horn of Africa more widely - are
being served at present by US and NATO backing for African Union (AU) troops in
Darfur. There NATO provides ground and air support for AU troops who are
categorized as "neutral" and "peacekeepers". Sudan is at war on three fronts,
against Uganda, Chad, and Ethiopia, each with a significant US military
presence and ongoing US military programs. The war in Sudan involves both US
covert operations and US trained "rebel" factions coming in from south Sudan,
Chad, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Chad's Deby looks to China too
The completion of the US and World Bank-financed oil pipeline from Chad to the
Cameroon coast was designed as one part of a far grander Washington scheme to
control the oil riches of Central Africa from Sudan to the entire Gulf of
But Washington's erstwhile pal, Chad's Deby, began to get unhappy with his
small share of the US-controlled oil profits. When he and the Chad parliament
decided in early 2006 to take more of the oil revenues to finance military
operations and beef up its army, the new World Bank president - and Iraq war
architect - Paul Wolfowitz moved to suspend loans to the country. Then that
August, after Deby had won re-election, he created Chad's own oil company, SHT,
and threatened to expel Chevron and Malaysia's Petronas for not paying taxes
owed, and demanded a 60% share of the Chad oil pipeline. In the end he came to
terms with the oil companies, but winds of change were blowing.
Deby also faces growing internal opposition from a Chad rebel group, United
Front for Change, known under its French name as FUC, which he claims is being
covertly funded by Sudan. The FUC has based itself in Darfur.
Into this unstable situation, Beijing has shown up in Chad with a full coffer
of aid money in hand. In late January, Chinese President Hu Jintao made a state
visit to Sudan and Cameroon among other African states. In 2006, China's
leaders visited no fewer than 48 African states. In August 2006, Beijing
hosted Chad's foreign minister for talks and resumption of formal diplomatic
ties cut in 1997. China has begun to import oil from Chad as well as Sudan.
Not that much oil, but if Beijing has its way, that will soon change.
This April, Chad's foreign minister announced that talks with China over
greater China participation in Chad's oil development were "progressing well".
He referred to the terms the Chinese seek for oil development, calling them
"much more equal partnerships than those we are used to having".
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in
calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop
presence ever could. That would not be welcome for some people in Washington
and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not secure the oil.
Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast China effort to secure "oil at the
source" across Africa. Oil is also the prime factor in US Africa policy today.
George W Bush's interest in Africa includes a new US base in Sao Tome/Principe,
124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea, from which it can control Gulf of Guinea oil
fields from Angola in the south to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon,
Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to be the very same
areas where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment activity has focused.
"West Africa's oil has become of national strategic interest to us," stated US
Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner back in 2002. Darfur
and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy "with other means" -
control of oil everywhere. China is challenging that control "everywhere",
especially in Africa. It amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.
F William Engdahl is author of the book, A Century of War:
Anglo-American Oil Politics, Pluto Press Ltd. His next book, Seeds of
Destruction: The Dark Side of Genetic engineering (Global Research Publishing)
will be released this June. He may be contacted via his website,