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Our Man Bildt (3)

A look into the affairs of Sweden's minister for foreign affairs. Part three.


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DUCKPOND (Rixstep) — Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt seems to never be out of the news. Bildt's repeatedly denied talking with representatives of the US about Julian Assange. Bildt's been described in the US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks as 'a medium size dog who believes he's a big dog'.

This article series takes a look at the man and what he's been up to.

Block 5A

Block 5A is an oil concession in southern Sudan that was the scene of extensive fighting as rival militias struggled for control. Out of an original population of 240,000, 12,000 were murdered or died of starvation and 160,000 were dispossessed by force.

And it's all about oil. And Lundin Petroleum. And Carl Bildt.



Block 5A is part of a huge fertile floodplain fed by rivers from the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. People move their herds in the dry in search of grazing, and move them to high ground in the wet as the lowlands are flooded.

Block 5A is populated by the Nuer of the Bul, Leek, Jagei, Western Jikany and Dok sections. Geologically Block 5A is located in the Muglad Basin, an area rich in oil deposits. The Thar Jath field, an area of 54 km2, is said to have a reserve of 250,000,000 barrels.

Civil War

The Sudan achieved independence in 1956 but has mostly been in a state of war ever since. The swampy region in the south was of no use to the government in Khartoum until a 1540 km underground pipeline was completed in 1999. Oil exploration began to take off in 1998 and the SSUM militia started pushing villagers out.

Riek Machar's SSDF militia and Paulino Matiep's SSUM militia both wanted credit (payment) for protecting the oil companies. Several clashes took place in these years.

Chevron prospected in Block 5A back in 1982, found oil, but stopped operations after three of their expatriate workers were killed by rebels in February 1984.

Enter Lundin Oil in 1997 through a consortium with OMV of Austria, Petronas of Malaysia, and Sudapet of Sudan. Lundin's 40.375% stake was held by their Canadian subsidiary International Petroleum Corporation, OMV agreed to purchase their 27.5% interest in the Block 5A project on 3 June 1997, and Petronas already had a pending assignment of a 30% interest. Lundin and Talisman Energy swapped some of their assets in 2002, but the Lundin family kept control of their part of Block 5A. Block 5A remained the main asset of the Lundins through their transition to Lundin Petroleum in 2001.

Three Lundin employees were killed in an attack at the Thar Jath rig in May 2000. Lundin suspended operations. The local population around Thar Jath were forcibly removed and operations resumed again in March 2001, only to be halted again in January 2002.

By March 2003 Lundin purported to have seen 'positive developments in the peace process and improved conditions in the concession area' and planned to again resume activities, but three months later sold their concession to Petronas for $142.5 million.

Unlike other Sudan oilfields, there was no forcible displacement of the civilian population until about 1998, when the consortium led by Lundin Oil started exploration. Paulino Matiep's militia began attacking communities in Block 5A, with residents fleeing to the marshes where many died of malaria. The Khartoum government supported Matiep, wanting to clear away civilians from the oil fields, the rigs, the roads, the pipeline. An alternative less violent solution was offered by rival Riek Machar but it was rejected.

The population around Thar Jath were forced to leave in 1998, taking only their cattle, and their houses were destroyed. Fighting between June 1997 and November 1998 caused 70% of the population to flee. Villages around Nhialdiu, as well as the Nhialdiu health centre, were looted and destroyed in 1998. Oxfam began an emergency programme in May 1998.

A Médecins Sans Frontières compound was burned and destroyed in 1998, as were a school and community offices. Matiep's militia raided cattle camps, killed the animals for food, and villagers fled to islands in the Nile.

A Lundin helicopter was shot down in 2002, and the government responded by starting a new operation in the area, this time targeting civilians along the oil road, and in April 2003 opening a new offensive.

Lundin sold out shortly afterward.

HRW, Lundell, ECOS

Human Rights Watch published their 500+ page report Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights in 2003, claiming Lundin and others had deliberately ignored the violent methods used by Matiep, the government in Khartoum, and others to clear the land for oil exploitation. Sweden went ballistic and Lundin sold out to Petronas. But had the Swedes done wrong? No.

Their annual report for 2006 (Carl Bildt's final year on the board) stressed that they'd paid strict attention to international norms related to human rights and had implemented a community development and humanitarian assistance programme to help people obtain water, health care, and education. Their friends in the fields Talisman Energy were the subject of a critical report back home in Canada but they too denied knowing anything of what had been going on.

Kerstin Lundell's book Business in Blood and Oil appeared in January 2010 and won the 'Golden Spade' a month later - days before the release of Collateral Murder.

The European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) published their report Unpaid Debt: The Legacy of Lundin, Petronas and OMV in Sudan, 1997-2003 in June 2010 - days after the arrest of Bradley Manning.

A Swedish prosecutor was assigned the preliminary investigation into Carl Bildt and Lundin Petroleum. That's soon two years ago.

Carl Bildt has been before the constitutional committee to answer questions about his involvement with the Lundins and his knowledge of crimes against humanity.

Carl Bildt continues to this day as Sweden's minister for foreign affairs.

I don't have blood in my veins - I have oil in them.
 - Adolf Lundin
We're not political. We can't interfere with domestic affairs.
 - Ian Lundin
You are enhancing the conflict by engaging in oil investments.
 - Gerhart Baum, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan to the UN
I'm always watching over my shoulder. To see if someone's following me. Someone might be out to do me harm for what I wrote in my book. I don't know if that's the case, I haven't received any tangible threats. But you can't be too careful.
 - Kerstin Lundell

One: Introduction | Two: Lundin Oil | Three: Block 5A | Four: Persson & Schibbye | Five: Media Outcry | Six: Questions | Seven: Bibliography

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