Lundin not welcome

The Swedish company Lundin has been accused of war crimes in Sudan. The company is not welcome in the oil fields which now lie in the new country, South Sudan.


In Sweden this autumn, police investigated claims that the Swedish oil company, Lundin Petroleum, was complicit in war crimes in Sudan around the turn of the century. Whatever the outcome of the investigation, the company’s name and reputation is in tatters in South Sudan.


– Companies like Lundin are not welcome back. We are keeping an eye on them and want to hold them accountable for what they have done, says MP Henry Odwar in South Sudan. He is head of the new national assembly’s oil and energy committee and hopes the investigation of Lundin will shed light on what happened in the area where the company was operating around the year 2000. He is in no doubt whatsoever that they must have known what they were doing.


In 1997, the Swedish oil company, Lundin Oil AB, alongside Petronas from Malaysia, Sudapet from Sudan and Austria’s OMV sought a licence in Block 5A in Sudan. Block 5A, however, was far from being an unpopulated area. The local population was engaged in agriculture and herding in the fertile marshlands along the Nile. In order to enable oil production here, Sudan had to make use of both regular forces and allied militias, the tactics being similar to those later used in western Sudan, in Darfur.


Human Rights WatchChristian Aid, the oil company Talisman and the UN are among those who have documented what happened. So many knew, but apparently not Lundin. The attacks, which began in 1997, went on for several years. In a report from the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS), a 2001 attack was described as follows:


“Many small children drowned in the river when they tried to escape the men on horseback. The latter hunted people towards the river and shot them as they tried to cross, weighed down by children and the old. There were two young women, Nylaluak and Myanhialdiu, both heavily pregnant. The men on horseback shot them regardless as they tried to get away.” Rhoda Nyareak Chany from Nhialdu.


ECOS estimates that 12,000 people were killed and 160,000 forcibly displaced from Block 5A and the surrounding area. Under the 2005 peace agreement, people who have suffered injustice on account of the war for oil are entitled to compensation. It is not yet determined, however, if such compensation is to be paid, or by whom. What is sure is that oil companies now wishing to establish themselves in South Sudan will have their records carefully assessed.


– These companies collaborated with a government which has not been made accountable to the people in this area. They knew what they were doing, says Odwar.


Lundin sold their shares in Block 5A in 2003. Some of the revenues from the sale were used to buy entry to the Norwegian continental shelf, where the company was last year rewarded with a huge find. The company is also a major sponsor of the new Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo.