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        • “Why should the public believe the Lundin Group's version?”

“Why should the public believe the Lundin Group's version?”

Prove it, Ian and Lukas Lundin! The image presented by the Lundin brothers (Dagens Nyheter Debatt 18/3) does not accord with the image I have acquired after having researched Sudan over the past seven years. They maintain that the accusations made against the Lundin Group are “unfounded and unjust”. But they do not put forward any evidence for this claim. Why should I and the general public believe their version rather than believing Amnesty, FN, Human Rights Watch, ICG and world-leading experts on the Sudan, writes Johan Brosché.


In DN Debatt 18/3 [1] Ian and Lukas Lundin welcomed the debate on the situation in Sudan and the Lundin Group's role in this. As a peace and conflict researcher focusing on Sudan, I welcome a discussion of this kind. But the starting point in a discussion of this type must be a correct charting of the information currently available. The image that Ian and Lukas Lundin present does not accord with the image I have acquired after having researched Sudan over the past seven years, visiting the country six times and in total spending almost 5 months in Sudan and South Sudan. The image presented by the brothers does not accord at all with the image painted by FN, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and International Crisis Group (ICG).


In their polemical article, Ian and Lukas Lundin maintain that , in its report on the company, Aftonbladet has no concrete factual information. What is more, the Lundin brothers write that: “We are convinced that– by being responsible and active investors – we are part of a development process which is helping to make life easier for people in Ethiopia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are many practical examples of this, but instead of presenting them in detail we believe it is more meaningful to take a closer look at the remarkable man who created the Group that bears our family name.”


In choosing this particular focus, Ian and Lukas do precisely what they are accusing Aftonbladet of doing – they give no concrete factual details. How does this contribute to the debate the Lundin brothers say they want to initiate? What is meant by making life easier for people? This is a vague wording and therefore difficult to discuss. Peace research does not, however, support the idea that life is easier in countries with oil and mineral assets. On the contrary, having such assets increases the risk of conflict and development in a non-democratic direction.


In the article the Lundin brothers also write that peace is spreading across the African continent. This is a correct statement – the number of conflicts in Africa has declined from the end of the 1990s up to the present day. But it is not in those countries where Lundin is, or has been, active that the African peace is spreading. The positive development in Africa does not include Ethiopia, Sudan, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, but rather countries such as Mozambique, Angola and Liberia. The argument about the spreading of peace in Africa is therefore not applicable to those countries in which Lundin Petroleum operates.


So what is the present state of knowledge concerning the Lundin Group and its activities in Sudan?


In June 2010 the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) – a network consisting of more than 50 different voluntary organisations – presented a report entitled Unpaid Debt. In this report, ECOS claims that thousands of people were killed and almost 200,000 people driven out as a result of the attempts by the Sudanese government to take control of oilfield Block 5A, where Lundin Oil owned the prospecting rights. These facts are supported by satellite images of farmland showing how the civilian population were driven out of these areas. The report also contends that there are clear links between the government and Lundin Oil. The report describes, among other things that government soldiers were employed by Lundin Oil.


In response to this report Lundin Petroleum – in a letter to shareholders – claimed that this picture was false and that other reports showed a completely different picture. In the letter, the Lundin Group referred to two reports. Both of these short reports have been commissioned by the Group itself. As far as I am aware, these are the only reports presenting an image like the one presented by Ian and Lukas Lundin in their article. It is possible that the more sources supporting their description, and in that case I would encourage representatives of the Lundin Group to produce these for the general public so that we can assess their credibility. Reports produced by Lundin Petroleum in order to disclaim responsibility by Lundin Petroleum can scarcely be said to weigh as heavily as the work of independent organisations.


For experts on Sudan, the information in the report Unpaid Debt was not surprising. The report presents some new and interesting information, such as the above-mentioned satellite pictures, but the general information has been in circulation for a long period. There are many other reports proving the negative effects of oil and oil companies on the conflict in southern Sudan.


The most scrupulous study of the role of oil for the war in South Sudan is Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report “Oil, Sudan and Human Rights”. In this 657 page report the author provides more than 1,600 footnotes, and Lundin Oil is mentioned 513 times. The image presented in the report is diametrically opposed to the one that Ian and Lukas Lundin give in their article. Needless to say, the number of pages and footnotes does not say everything, but among Sudan experts the report is considered to be the result of very solid research. A similar picture appears in several reports by ICG and Amnesty.


One of most problematic aspects of peace and conflict research is the reliability of different sources. HRW, Amnesty, and ICG are considered to be among the most reliable sources available in this field of research.


In line with the picture presented in the reports mentioned above, the United Nations rapporteur on human rights considers that oil exploitation is intensifying the conflict with serious consequences for the civilian population, and considers it disturbing that the oil industry’s airfields are used for military purposes. Professor Douglas Johnsson, who is considered to be the world's leading expert on the conflicts in South Sudan, writes in his book The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil War about the role of oil in the war. He considers that– in order to avoid criticism – the oil companies claim that their involvement is positive for the civilian population. But he considers that there is convincing evidence of violations of human rights in the oilfields, and that oil income has intensified the waging of war by the government.


Ian and Lukas Lundin claim in their article in Dagens Nyheter that the accusations against the Lundin Group are “unfounded, unjust in some cases even absurd”. But they adduce no proof of this claim. Why should I and the general public choose to believe their version rather than believing Amnesty, FN, Human Rights Watch, ICG and world-leading Sudan experts? Why should we dismiss careful research reports in favour of reports they have written themselves?


Ian and Lukas Lundin claim that they have a large body of proof of Lundin Petroleum’s positive influence in countries such as, for example, South Sudan. If this is the case, then it is high time that the public was allowed to share this information. A personal portrait of Adolf H. Lundin can scarcely be said to be particularly informative.


Johan Brosché, peace and conflict researcher, Uppsala University, currently guest researcher at University of New York


1] http://www.dn.se/debatt/aftonbladets-enda-syfte-tycks-vara-att-smutskasta


original Swedish article: