Oil Conflict

Big Men: The Story Of Oil In Africa

A new documentary highlighting African oil corruption in the Niger Delta is set to open across the U.S. this week in theaters.  It was filmed by Rachel Boyton in late 2006 as she was trekking through the oil-rich Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria and tells her chronicle of the petroleum-fueled pursuit of wealth and status in Africa. Below is the trailer to the film.

The central narrative of the film is that it takes place in Ghana, some 200 miles to the west. Boynton somehow convinced Dallas oilman James Musselman and his British-born colleague Brian Maxted–the chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively, of a privately held exploration company called Kosmos Energy–to let her shadow them with cameras and microphones as they drilled their way through layers of Ghanaian politics and bureaucracy, and the white-hot core of Wall Street, in order to reap the financial rewards of an amazing discovery. Kosmos had raised $825 million in private equity investment from Warburg Pincus and the Blackstone Group and located the country’s first known oil reserves: a multi-billion barrel, deep-sea deposit, 40 miles off the Ghanaian coast in the Atlantic Ocean and dubbed the Jubilee Field.

As to why oil executives would have a documentary film maker follow them around, Musselman explains that “Rachel is very persuasive, She was passionate about the story. I thought it was a good story that just got better, frankly, as time went on. We don’t enjoy great reputations a lot of the time. I thought this was a good story to show how in Ghana, we could transform the lives of a whole lot of people for the better. And I thought her contrast back to Nigeria was really good. I’d seen some of her previous work and I thought she’s gonna do a good job. It wouldn’t be any kind of expose’ or anything bad. I trusted her.”

I look forward to seeing this film myself.

Brief overview of modern Sudan and Latest news

Brief overview of modern Sudan thanks to by the Economist and Latest news update on Sudan.

The Darfur rebels have suspended peace talks:

Darfur’s most powerful rebel group said Monday it was suspending peace talks with Sudan’s government, accusing Khartoum of attacking villages and military positions in breach of a ceasefire.

The announcement from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was largely symbolic as formal talks have been stalled for months, but it underlined the distance between the two sides seven years after the conflict in the Darfur region began.

“Because of the ongoing comprehensive offensive against the civilian population in Darfur and because of the aggression against our forces on the ground, JEM has decided to freeze its participation in the Doha peace process,” JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam told Reuters by telephone.

JEM accused Sudan’s army of bombing its positions and nearby settlements in the Jabel Moun area of West Darfur, close to the border with Chad, over the past two weeks.

Joint U.N./African Union peacekeepers said they were not able to confirm the reports as they did not have troops in the area and it was not possible to get other independent verification.

No one was immediately available to comment from Sudan’s army but the force has regularly denied mounting any offensives in the remote border area.

JEM was one of two mostly non-Arab rebel groups which took up arms against Sudan’s government in 2003, accusing it of starving the remote western region of funding and marginalizing its people.

Khartoum, which mobilized mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising, announced a new peace push in the region late 2008. It signed a ceasefire with JEM in Qatar in February this year, as well as a “framework” agreement setting out the terms for future negotiations.

The Sudanese army and government  said it remained committed to the peace talks.

You can catch up on the divide and mistrust of the North and South below.

In other news from Sudan, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir won the election that was recently held. Although the results were not so clear cut for an outright victory.  It was the first “election” in 24 years.

On the face of it, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir got the perfect election result.

His victory with 68 percent was not too high that it would spark concerns of fraud but high enough above the 50 percent needed for a win for him to be able fly in the face of the disapproving West.

Bashir is now the only elected sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

But the path to victory was far from smooth.

Three weeks before what was promising to be an exciting electoral race, irregularities including a government printing press winning the contract to print ballot papers, sparked a wave of boycotts effectively ending any hope of a competitive presidential poll.

But given the late notice all the candidates’ names remained on the ballot papers. So despite opposition leaders urging their supporters not to go to vote — if they wanted to, they could in theory still vote for their man (or woman).

There was confusion and uncertainty whether if and when the elections would take place due to expected fraud and unrest in Darfur.

More background on the elections.

The elections both highlighted the interests of both Washington and Sudan.

Washington needs the rocky partnership between the SPLM and the NCP who joined in government after a 2005 north-south peace deal to continue to ensure a key southern referendum on secession goes ahead in January 2011.

Some agree that a successful referendum will go a long way to ensuring Africa’s longest civil war does not reignite. But opposition Umma party spokeswoman Mariam al-Mahdi warns Bashir “will bring only the bloodiest referendum.”

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