First Published: 2009-02-18

 
US eyes future oil deals in southern Sudan
 

Southern Sudanese ex-warlord in US swords-to-ploughshares deal as Washington plans comeback.

 

Middle East Online

By Guillaume Lavallee - KHARTOUM

Links between US financiers and former Sudanese warlords

A New York finance house has linked up with a former warlord in south Sudan to farm an area of land bigger than Luxembourg in a swords-to-ploughshares plan.

Jarch Capital has signed the literally groundbreaking deal as a partner in Leac, a company run by Gabriel Matip, eldest son of Paulino Matip, former head of the South Sudan Defence Forces, an armed group now integrated into the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement which administers (mainly Christian and animist) south Sudan.

"It's actually two separate transactions. (In one of them) Leac has the rights from the government of southern Sudan to do the agriculture... the rights to grow, to transport and to export," Jarch chairman Philippe Heilberg said.

Sudan has much unexploited agricultural potential as well as oil deposits and Jarch can provide the necessary finance but Leac's licence from the government did not give it access to any land.

"So we turned to General Paulino," who has granted Leac a lease on an area of 4,000 square kilometres (1,600 square miles) he controls in south Sudan's Unity state, Heilberg said.

"You put the two together and you have an agriculture venture," said the Jarch CEO, whose business, headquartered on Park Avenue in Manhattan, has a former CIA agent and the former US diplomat Joseph Wilson on its board.

"The land will require at least a billion dollars in investment over the next five to 10 years and maybe more," he said.

Jarch will give back at least 10 percent of profits to the local population in Unity state's Mayom county but it makes no pretence to be a not-for-profit operation.

"We are not an NGO. We do this to make money. We would give back to the people because it is the right thing to do and we also want to see people prosper because, if the people prosper, they will like us to remain," Heilberg said.

'We want to grow foods that people need'

Gabriel Matip said production will not all be for export. "We want to grow foods that the people need," he said.

The story may not end there, as the land could also contain minerals or oil, which US companies are barred from extracting in Sudan, at least for the moment.

In 1997, the United States imposed sanctions forbidding its companies from investing in almost all sectors in Sudan, accusing the Khartoum government of being a state sponsor of terrorism after it gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Then president George W. Bush loosened the measures in 2006, permitting US companies to invest in south Sudan, apart from in the oil sector, in order to stimulate the region's economy as it came out of 21 years of civil war with Khartoum that saw two million people die.

The peace agreement between the north and south envisages a 2011 referendum on independence for south Sudan and the deal's full implementation could lead to a complete overhaul of the US sanctions.

If that happens, the contract between the Matip clan and Jarch Capital will give the US investment firm a head start over other American businesses wanting to invest in Sudanese oil, according to a source close to the deal.

However, the partners are not ordering the drilling equipment just yet as the lands controlled by the Matip family are within a petroleum prospection block held by a Chinese company.

In a further complication, the agreement between the Matips and Jarch has not gone down well with the SPLM's top leadership, which is drawn from the Dinka ethnic group, while the Matip family are Nurs.

It was the rivalry between the two peoples that prompted Nurs like the Matips to break away from the SPLM in the early 1990s.

There is also an ethical question about links between financiers and former fighters, although Gabriel Matip has no concerns. "We all know who we are doing business with and there is confidence between us," he said.

 

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison