Oil found in South Darfur - Oil issues threaten to derail Sudan hopes for peace
The report also reveals that the president of Sudanese oil exploration company Advanced Petroleum Company (APCO), Salah Wahbi, told The Sunday Business Post that oil had been found in South Darfur. He said that oil had been found in south Darfur and he urged the rebels to return to the negotiating table. It quoted Mr Wahbi as saying:
The people of Darfur will benefit from sharing the oil wealth locally under a future peace agreement. Why delay by continuing fighting?The following is a copy of the report titled Oil issues threaten to derail Sudan hopes for peace by Pieter Tesch in The Sunday Business Post, 3 April 2005:
The arrival of a delegation of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Khartoum last week marked another step in the normalisation of relations between north and south Sudan. The delegation arrived to discuss the implementation of the January 9 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) that officially ended the 22-year civil war in the south of the country.
The SPLM and the government of Sudan are expected to reach agreement on the formation of a government of national unity, the new government of the south and the government of the states, but proposals to share the country's oil wealth on a 50/50 basis may lead to further friction.
In early March, shares in the newly-formed London oil exploration company, White Nile, rose on the London Stock Exchange from 10p to 13.85p after news broke that the firm had signed a deal with the SPLM for block B in the south.
However, the Khartoum government said the deal was not valid, as the deal made in 1980 between French oil giant Total and the Sudanese government had been renewed last December, before the signing of the CPA.
"The deal between the SPLM and White Nile over block B had no standing in international law, as the CPA clearly stated that all existing oil agreements superseded the clauses of the CPA," Salah Wahbi, president of Sudanese oil exploration company Advanced Petroleum Company (APCO), told The Sunday Business Post.
"Total has been paying the government rent and I believe has no intention to give up its concession for block B."
Wahbi said that the SPLM should realise that it was part of the future government of Sudan and should act accordingly. Under the CPA, a commission was to be set up to deal with such matters, and the dispute over block B should be left to the commission, he said.
It was the discovery of oil in southern Sudan in 1979, often under land close to the historical border between north and south, that led to the start of the second bloody civil war in the south in 1983.
Much of the fighting centered on oilfields like Bentiu and Abyei and the war spilled over into the nearby Nuba mountains in the South Kordofan state. It is officially part of northern Sudan, but is mainly inhabited by the Nuba, an ancient African farming people who sided with the SLPM, while the local Arab nomads allied themselves with the Khartoum government.
A ceasefire for the Nuba mountains was concluded more than two years ago in Kenya. With the help of the UN, a ceasefire monitoring framework was set up with the aim of preventing renewed conflicts over land and water.
At a press briefing in Khartoum last Sunday, UN special envoy Jan Pronk, who had just returned from a trip to the Nuba mountains, hailed the area as an example of how the peace process could create new opportunities for the rest of Sudan. He said there were similar problems between Arab nomads and Africans in Darfur.
Irish aid agency Goal, which is working in the Jebel Mara mountain range in the heart of Darfur, is one of the few agencies that has provided health programmes to local nomads, while assisting the local Fur people to build up their lives after the area was devastated by the civil war in 2003 and 2004.
But peace in Darfur seems as far away as ever, with negotiations stalled between the Sudanese government and Darfuri rebels, who have attacked oil installations on the southern borders of Darfur and Kordofan.
Wahbi said that oil had been found in south Darfur and he urged the rebels to return to the negotiating table. "The people of Darfur will benefit from sharing the oil wealth locally under a future peace agreement. Why delay by continuing fighting?"