(First published in Norwegian 14 Sep 2006)
By Erik Hagen and Sigurd Jorde
The UN and several non-governmental organisations have during the past two weeks predicted a new catastrophe in Darfur. The government in Khartoum repeated this weekend mid-September that it does not accept UN forces in Darfur, after starting a new military offensive against insurrection groups and civilians.
Under the cover of the fragile ceasefire agreement for Darfur adopted at the beginning of May, the Bergen-based company Rolls-Royce Marine send their equipment closer and closer to the civil war-devastated provinces of Sudan.
So far, oil has not played a central role in the Darfur-conflict. But just that might be a question of time. The rich oil fields are lined up like pearls on a string from South Sudan to Chad. The only place where the oil has been left relatively untouched is Darfur.
After having rejected for several days to comment detailed information from Norwatch and the Norwegian Council for Africa, Rolls-Royce Marine at last confirmed their involvement on the doorstep of Darfur. According to the company, deliveries are now to be made to the border area between Darfur and Kordofan. According to Human Rights Watch, even the border is considered as part of the larger conflict zone. The deliveries will take place “in the course of a few months” and are worth “just above ten million dollars”.
From what Norwatch and the Norwegian Council for Africa understands from anonymous sources in Sudan, the Chinese state owned company CNPC had ordered the equipment. The Chinese is the operator of Block 6, stretching from the state of Western Kordofan, and entering deep into Darfur. The equipment the Chinese will use is to consist of land-based diesel engines and pumps. The equipment will probably be used to connect new oil fields to the gigantic main oil pipeline, leading the oil all the way to the Read Sea.
"Serious and Desperate”
The situation in Darfur, in western Sudan, is “serious and desperate”, according to the UN’s secretary general, Kofi Annan. A new resolution in the UN’s Security Council makes it possible for the UN to send 22 000 soldiers to the region. The government in Khartoum recently repeated that it does not want a UN force and has simultaneously threatened not to extend the mandate of the 7000-man force from The African Union (AU), which terminates at the end of September. While Sudan plays for high political stakes in the UN and AU, it has sent its own troops to Darfur to suppress the insurrection groups that did not sign the ceasefire agreement in May. Both the UN mission in Sudan, UNMIS, and Human Rights Watch warned this past week that civilians had again been attacked and bombed by, respectively, militia groups and the Sudanese air force.
With the new Norwegian equipment, made at the company’s engine factory in Bergen, the Chinese will speed up their oil production in Kordofan. Here the production has increased greatly, from 10 000 barrels a day to 40 000. Another central source says the Chinese also have made new finds in Darfur, but this information they have not wanted to make public. It is also speculated whether the Norwegian company has plans to join the oil adventure in Darfur.
For a long time, Rolls-Royce Marine did not want to comment the information regarding new deliveries to Sudan.
The first days Norwatch investigated the new involvement in Western Sudan, VP Communications in Rolls-Royce Marine, Arnfinn Ingjerd, told Norwatch that he has no knowledge about the company having an order for Sudan deliveries for millions of Norwegian kroner. After having checked the matter, he wrote in an e-mail that Rolls-Royce has sold more than 70 engines to Sudan’s oil sector since the first pipeline was ready in 1998. But neither Ingjerd nor the main office in London wished to comment on or disprove the information that Norwatch and The Norwegian Council for Africa have obtained.
When Norwatch called back for further details, Ingjerd explained that he is not familiar with whether the company had made agreements beyond the long-term maintenance contracts. Nor did he know who the customer in Sudan is, where in Sudan the equipment is to be used, or the size of the deliveries. After checking with his superiors in the Rolls-Royce group in Great Britain, Ingjerd informed us that he cannot say any more whatsoever and avoids at the same time denying the information he was confronted with. He confirmed, however, that the company still has long-term maintenance contracts in the country.
Only after Norwatch had started collaborating on the research together with another Norwegian newspaper, and Rolls-Royce was questioned on the matter from several sides, the company did an about-face, and confirmed that the assumptions were correct.
“It is just above ten million dollars. So it’s not very much. And our contract parties are serious, global operators”, Public Relations Manager Arnfinn Ingjerd tells Norwatch.
According to Ingjerd, the equipment is to be sent to Sudan “in the course of a few months”.
“The deliveries are destined for the border area between Darfur and Kordovan”, he claims.
He emphasizes that they keep within the guidelines drawn up by the Norwegian authorities.
Leslie Lefkow in Human Rights Watch believes that even the border area between Darfur and Kordofan is included in what is considered the larger area of conflict. “It is not where the conflict is hottest right now, but it is still a part of the area where there is conflict”, Lefkow tells Norwatch.
She explains that insurrection groups have attacked installations here earlier. Lefkow is worried that the oil industry might lead to an escalation of the conflict level in the region.
Rolls-Royce Marine’s involvement in Sudan first became known in the media in 2003, through a report on Norway and the oil in Sudan, published by The Norwegian Council for Africa. At that time the deliveries are supposed to have been smaller and, moreover, to another location in Sudan.
Of the company’s 2200 employees in Norway, approximately 700 work at the factory in Bergen. According to Ingjerd, the land-based activity at the Bergen factory is organized within the group’s energy division, whose base is in Great Britain. The factory produces engines both for offshore and for onshore use. In addition to Sudan, they have delivered to countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia, where poor access to natural gas and an unreliable power grid make powerful diesel engines popular in industrial companies.
Egbert Wesselink at European Coalition on Oil in Sudan in the Netherlands says that they are aware that Rolls-Royce has supplied equipment to Sudan.
Wesselink is not pleased about the silence of the international oil companies with regard to their activities in Sudan. “The lack of frankness in Sudan’s oil industry is a great problem. This is very politically sensitive in Sudan”, he says. “We know that Block 6 extends into Darfur and that oil is being extracted in Darfur. In the situation now developing in Sudan nobody can work and at the same time keep silent.
Wesselink urges Rolls-Royce to assume responsibility and speak openly about their involvement in Sudan. “In a conflict like the one in Sudan and Darfur, no party is neutral. Even international laws establish that those who support one of the parties are responsible. Rolls-Royce should be open and be a positive factor in Sudan”, Wesselink believes.
European Coalition on Oil in Sudan does not believe in a boycott of the oil companies in Sudan or that they will withdraw. This would have no impact on the situation, Wesselink believes. Instead, he urges the companies to collaborate and together try to influence the regime in Khartoum.
Rolls-Royce, for their part, does not wish to answer the question as to what they have done to make their involvement in Sudan better known.
“We are not engaged in politics. That is what the authorities do. And we are within the guidelines drawn up by the authorities”, says Ingjerd in Rolls-Royce. He emphasizes, however, that the company has participated in the oil industry in the country to “help the continuing economic development of the country”.
At the time while Rolls-Royce seems to be increasing its deliveries to Sudan, the conflict level during the past weeks has increased considerably, both in the UN and on the ground in Darfur. Two weeks ago the UN’s Security Council adopted a resolution about Darfur and a plan that a 20 000-man UN force is to replace today’s 7000 badly equipped men from The African Union (AU). The government in Khartoum was quick to denounce the resolution. It has, furthermore, warned that the AU forces’ mandate, which expires in September, will not be renewed if the AU supports the UN resolution.
While the diplomatic game for Sudan has been taking place at the UN, the situation on the ground has worsened considerably. Since 2003 between one and two hundred thousand people have been killed, and 2,5 million have been put to flight from Darfur. News agencies that have visited the area say that the internal refugees are now terrified of the government’s new offensive in northern Darfur, which, according to Human Rights Watch, already has cost many civilian lives.
Kofi Annan warned Sudan’s authorities at the end of last week: “The leaders of Sudan can be held collectively and individually responsible for what is happening to the population of Darfur”.
Erik Hagen is a journalist at Norwatch. Sigurd Jorde is inforamtion office for The Norwegian Council for Africa.