01 August 2004

Is There Oil in Haiti?

Common Sense
John Maxwell

'Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It's the devil's excrement. We are drowning in the devil's excrement.'
- Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, former Venezuelan oil minister and a founder of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), speaking in the early 1970s.

The Sudan is the largest country in Africa, one of the largest countries in the world, about a quarter the size of the United States. It is really several nations, cobbled together into a national entity to suit the administrative conveniences of the British Raj.

Most of the population is black, including many of those described as Arabs. Sudan has been at war with its people almost as soon as it gained independence from Britain in 1956.

"In the oilfields of Sudan, civilians are being killed and raped, their villages burnt to the ground. They are caught in a war for oil, part of the wider civil war between northern and southern Sudan that has been waged for decades. Since large-scale production began two years ago, oil has moved the war into a new league. Across the oil-rich regions of Sudan, the government is pursuing a 'scorched earth' policy to clear the land of civilians and to make way for the exploration and exploitation of oil by foreign oil companies." - Christian Aid, 2003.

The depopulation of the countryside began when Chevron first discovered oil in 1980. The genocide has continued under the auspices of several oil companies, including companies from the US, the UK, Canada, China, Austria, Britain, Sweden and Malaysia.

The Real Price of Oil

The attitude of the oil companies may be summed up by the comment of US Vice President Dick Cheney, when he was CEO of Halliburton six years ago: "You've got to go where the oil is. I don't think about [political unrest] very much."

There are several civil wars in progress in the Sudan but the major struggle is between the government of the Sudan -;Arab, and its black citizens in the south of the country. Without going into the political details, it is enough to say, and accurately, that the Sudanese government has for several years pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing in which over 2 million poor people have died, more than a million made homeless, while famine and misery stalk the burned and devastated land.

It isn't as if the Western world has not known about the real price of its oil.

Republican US Senator Sam Brownback told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2000 that "Sudan's bombing of churches, refuge centres and other civilian targets is one of the worst cases of religious persecution in the world, and the Clinton administration is not doing enough to stop it."

Senator Brownback said then that the US should intervene, giving development assistance to the people in the south or break diplomatic relations with the Sudan.

A spokesman for the State Department responded that Sudan's war is so complicated that its "difficult at times to take sides". The spokesman, one Mr Seiple, said that concerted international effort would be ncessary to stop the slaughter.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the NGO, uman Rights Watch, released reports revealing the extent of atrocities committed by the government of Sudan. Two years ago, Christian Aid, another NGO, released even more damning reports on the bloody slaughter of the innocents being conducted under the auspices of oil companies. Christian Aid said that oil companies, in building the Sudanese oil industry, offered finance, technological expertise and supplies. The government, employing its new riches, is emptying the land of its people, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands. Oil industry infrastructure - roads and airstrips - are used by the army and its allied militias in their campaign of murder, torture, rape and starvation.

Christian Aid says that the oil companies, including one from high-minded Sweden, remain largely silent. "Those directly engaged in production claim they have no knowledge of oil-related human rights violation on their land and that, however deplorable, human rights violations are not linked to their activities

According to Christian Aid: "Government forces and militias have destroyed harvests, looted livestock and burned houses to ensure that no-one, once displaced, will return home. Since the pipeline opened, the increased use of helicopter gunships and indiscriminate high-altitude bombardment has added a terrifying new dimension to the war. 'The worst thing was the gunships,' Zeinab Nyacieng, a Nuer woman driven hundreds of miles from her home, told Christian Aid late last year. 'I never saw them before last year. But now they are like rain.'"

The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), a Trotskyist outfit, reported in May that "Khartoum is backing an Arab militia known as Janjaweed (or Fursan or Peshmerga) for the purpose of terrorising the local settled black African population." It has also encouraged the region's nomadic Arab tribes, the Baggara, to do the same.

Africa Analysis reports that at a recent meeting of the Baggara it was resolved to "empty the province" of its majority African population, and even to erase the name of Darfur, literally "home of the Fur", the largest African group comprising approximately four million of the region's six million people.

Rape as Policy

According to WSWS:
"The Janjaweed, armed with automatic weapons, ride in to the peasant villages on horseback. They burn the huts and round up the young men who are often executed. Parents are sometimes forced to watch whilst their daughters, some as young as six, are gang raped. Many are subsequently branded or executed along with their parents. Bodies are often dumped into village wells in order to poison the water.

"Mosques are often torched, with Korans desecrated and religious leaders killed. All livestock, food and possessions are taken and the village left uninhabitable.

"The Sudanese military follows afterwards to mop up. Alternatively it carries out bombing raids beforehand. Sometimes the Janjaweed and the military arrive together and set up a command post at the local police station prior to instigating a reign of terror."
According to an African Union delegation,earlier this month the Janjaweed militia had chained people together and set them on fire.

In the south of the Sudan, a peace agreement was being negotiated between the non-Muslim opposition led by John Garang and the government under which Khartoum would remain under Muslim Shari'ah law but religious rights would be guaranteed to the rest of the population. "A secret rider had been thought to exist between Washington and Khartoum which undertook to remove the Shari'ah from the constitutional basis of government in Sudan. This was to be a potential vote winner for the religious right in the US elections - to be trumpeted as the first time that a radical Muslim country has converted into a secular democracy." - WSWS

Whether such a rider exists, in April, the United States opposed a resolution by the European Union in the UNCHR referring to the concern about the scale of human rights abuses and the humanitarian situation in Darfur. The resolution passed by 50 votes to one, with two abstentions. The only negative vote was that of the US.

On Friday this week, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, backed by the US this time, calling on Khartoum to disarm the Arab militias and halt the genocide in Darfur.

Incidentally, according to the Associated Press on Friday, "ChevronTexaco Corp.'s second-quarter profit more than doubled as high energy prices extended a recent roll that is shaping into the most prosperous stretch in the oil giant's 125-year history."

Is there Oil in Haiti?

On July 19, the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) released a nineteen page report: Human Rights Violations in Haiti: February-May 2004 and on July 26, the IJDH issued an update paying particular attention to the direct human rights violations by the so-called "interim Government" of Haiti. Another report by the Haiti Accompaniment Project, corroborates and reinforces the findings of the IJDH.The reports are published at haitiaction.net.

Briefly, the various reports disclose that the interim government and its criminal satraps and accomplices have begun a second wave of repression against the political majority in Haiti - the Fanmi Lavalas (Lavalas Family) the movement supporting President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

The IJDH report documents in grisly detail the horror that is Haiti now. It corroborates earlier reports about massacres immediately following the overthrow of President Aristide.
"The Director of the State Hospital Morgue in Port-au-Prince reported that the morgue had disposed of over 1000 bodies in the month of March alone. Although some of these may have died of natural causes, in a normal month the morgue disposes of 100 cadavers. The Director said that many of the 1000 disposed bodies arrived with hands tied behind the back and bullet holes in the back of the head.

"The Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission reported finding 300 cadavers in the street in February and March, most with bullet holes, and estimated that the total number of killings could be as high as 500."
Lavalas supporters as prominent as Mayors and Haiti's best known folklorist have been summarily arrested without charge. In the case of folklorist Anne Auguste, even her six year-old granddaughter was brutally taken into custody when the 69 year-old woman was arrested at midnight some weeks ago. The child has since been released.

The IJDH report includes photographs in colour of mutilated bodies piled in the morgue on May 20, after another massacre, pictures of other victims, including one beheaded by his murderers. Among other victims of the repression are two Lavalas activists rounded up and killed at night by a detachment of US Marines in Belair - one of Haiti's largest slums and a stronghold of the Lavalas.

The repression is no respecter of age, sex or condition. Young and old are murdered, women, young and old, and children are shot or beaten or otherwise abused.

"Victims' families report that hundreds of less prominent Lavalas supporters have been arrested throughout the country, often in violation of several constitutional provisions. These reports cannot be confirmed, however, because the prison authorities do not allow independent human rights groups full access to the prisons and prison records. Preliminary investigations do indicate that significant numbers of supporters of the Constitutional government are incarcerated without a warrant or judicial order in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes and Gonaïves. In addition, there have been persistent reports of police conducting large, sweeping arrest operations in poor neighborhoods that are considered Lavalas strongholds. The police claim that the arrestees are common criminals, but as there are no warrants or subsequent judicial action, it is impossible to confirm this claim."

The reports can tell only of those cases about which informants will speak. Very many people refused to speak because of fear of reprisals and many others were unreachable because they are hiding from the terrorists.

Radio stations are shut down, journalists, professors and members of parliament arrested, and there is no news about these activities from the corporate press either in the United States or elsewhere. And Norway, as high-minded as Sweden, is busy arranging a conference between the various actors in the debacle, to prepare, it is said, for "free and fair" elections!

It is impossible for the facts not to be known to the United Nations or the United States, but, as in the case of the Sudan, they seem to be waiting for the horrors to age, like good wine, before they can contemplate action.

The Barbadians and Trinidadians are reported to be in favour of recognising the government of the face-choppers and rapists. I wonder what their reaction would be if the same things were happening in Jamaica or Guyana?

Once upon a time I heard that Freedom and Liberty are indivisible, that Justice must be universal, and that compassion was not only a virtue but a duty.

I was misinformed.


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