Oil in Sudan (click map to enlarge)

Darfur – It’s about the oil.

The US started the current conflict in Darfur over oil, by funding military aggression, a proxy war, using Chad. As part of this proxy war, the US has continued to arm the larger of two rebel groups, the SLM. China needs oil, and now possesses 1.2 trillion US dollars in its banks. The oil business is done in dollars, and China has plenty. China has been making loans to African governments with no strings attached. This has shored up authoritarian rulers. But China has also funded and helped build schools, roads, and other infrastructure projects in the African countries with which it is dealing.

Over the last 3 decades, the United States and the big oil companies have completely wasted the opportunities they had to build and cement long term positive relationships in Africa. The US government and Big Oil have preferred arrogance, neglect, and single minded exploitation. They have used “military assistance” to deal with anyone who they think may stand in their way.

With the Nigerian government unwilling to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta, Shell could have done this relatively cheaply on its own, in partnership with local communities. Shell should have been less arrogantly careless about polluting the land and the water. It would have cost more. But if Shell had been willing to think long term, it would have paid off more. US support for the grotesque government in Equitorial Guinea is both foolish for long term US interests, and morally inexcusable. And former support for Savimbi and Unitas in Angola was another moral abomination that achieved nothing but death and suffering.

F William Engdahl details the history and describes the present situation in Darfur and Sudan:

(The) present concern of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.

Instead, we now have:

. . . a new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China’s oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of – ironically – dollar diplomacy.
. . .
China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa’s vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington’s typical control game via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?
. . .
China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank.
. . .
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is trying to “secure oil at the sources”, something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
. . .
With its oil demand growing by an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in Africa.
. . .

Merchants of death –

The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia (the notorious School of the Americas).
By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes.
. . .
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 Republic.

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 laundering.
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.
. . .

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.
. . .
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby launched the initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. . . . 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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.

There is much more information in the article, and it is well worth reading. The information in this article is available in bits and pieces in a variety of sources. Mr. Engdahl has put it together with succinct precision.

I think two of the particularly telling quotes from the article are:

US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen.
and
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.

The cuts in US development aid, with increased military aid, is exactly the wrong way for the US to go, both in terms of US interests, and African interests. This is what the US did in the Cold War, and accomplished nothing good. This will cause enormous harm. In this context, the Africa Command appears to be an extension of the disastrous Iraq policy. I hope the US can find more positive ways to make friends and secure markets. The Iraq approach is an obvious and miserable failure. The American brand could become popular and successful again, but only if the US is willing to act in mutually beneficial fashion. So far the Cheney hand on foreign policy has steered relentlessly in the wrong direction.