Sudan: Negative public opinion forces oil company out

NAIROBI, 13 March (IRIN) - Canada's largest independent oil and gas exploration firm, Talisman Energy, said on Wednesday that it had completed the sale of its oil interests in Sudan's Western Upper Nile region for US $771 million.
Its 25 percent share of the Greater Nile Oil Project had been sold to a subsidiary of India's national oil company, the company said in a statement.

"Talisman's shares have continued to be discounted based on perceived political risk in-country and in North America," said the company's chief executive, Jim Buckee, when the sale was announced in October 2002. "Shareholders have told me they were tired of continually having to monitor and analyse events relating to Sudan."

Human rights groups, NGOs and churches launched a divestment campaign against the company four years ago claiming that its involvement in Sudan was exacerbating the 20 year civil war, by providing the revenue which pays for it.

In addition, the Sudanese government's human rights record around the oil fields has been heavily criticised. A study funded by Canadian and British NGOs in 2001 ("Report of an Investigation in Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western Upper Nile" by John Ryle and Georgette Gagnon) stated that the government had launched a strategy of "coordinated attacks" on civilian settlements.

But Talisman maintained throughout that it was a force for good, providing "development" opportunities for local Sudanese, and adopting a set of "Sudan Operating Principles" which promoted human rights protection.

"Talisman and its employees have made significant contributions to this and over these past four years, providing medical assistance, shelter, clean water, vocational training and initiating capacity-building programmes," said the company. It added that a programme would be established to ensure continuity in funding of such projects until 2005.


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