Fragmenting Sudan – The Jarch Way

March 6, 2009

Map showing Sudans oil regions (Stratfor)

Map showing Sudan's oil regions (Stratfor)

The United States is seeking the fragmentation of Sudan – and the villanization of Khartoum (justified or not) is merely a foil to achieve this geostrategic aim. Under a propaganda blanket supplied by international “justice” a far greater crime is occuring, which has already taken many thousands of lives and threatens the lives of millions more.

As I wrote back in August 2008, “Should Sudan fragment, then it is French and Chinese firms that will lose out most, and U.S. firms that will benefit.” This was at a time when Bush administration insiders were using the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page as a soapbox to promote a humanitarian “intervention” in Darfur, replete with Blackwater supplied expertise. Specifically, I suggested that a little known investment firm by the name of Jarch Capital (slogan: “Because It Is YOUR Land, YOUR Natural Resources!”) could win particularly big, netting its investors huge riches.

I don’t suppose that many people took notice of this prediction, but recent events of added more evidence that Jarch is abetting, and planning to profit massively from, the break up of Sudan into smaller, weaker statelets.

Before discussing these developments, it’s essential to know more about Jarch, and it’s an interesting ride. For a start, the firm boasts a curious cast of ex-intelligence officials, Clinton era insiders and veteran neocon warriors on its management team. There’s Larry Johnson (ex-CIA and frequent commentator on cable news about terrorism related themes). There’s Gwyneth Todd, an ex-Clinton adviser on Middle East affairs. There’s even Joseph Wilson, the ex-U.S. ambassador to Niger who became notoriously embroiled in the preparations for the War in Iraq. Alongside Wilson, there’s also J Peter Pham, a prominent neo-con commentator, particularly on African issues. And, at the apex of the operation, there is Philippe Heilberg.

Heilberg himself, frequently described as a bucaneering billionaire, has done time at AIG and Citibank (a glorious resume for sure), but this doesn’t seem to have dampened his spirits. In the 1990s he toured the ex-Soviet Union, tying up commodities deals, while he also worked for years out of Hong Kong for the now decrepid insurance behemoth.

Recent years have seen Phil take up a wholly new business strategy, however – hyper-disaster capitalism. This was made pretty clear by Energy Compass’ Peter Kemp, writing last year. Kemp wrote that:

“[Although] across [Africa] there is a broad presumption against border changes…states in turmoil can be fertile ground for risk-takers who are ready to cut deals with today’s rebels on the chance they’ll become tomorrow’s leaders. The most blatant buccaneers actively want states to fail, precisely because they might reap rewards from the new sovereign authorities that emerge.”

Kemp was speaking about Jarch which, he reported, “[was] targeting non-sovereign groups in a string of troubled states that stretch across the southern Sahel to the Red Sea.” Reportedly, Jarch had been pursuing mineral riches from Chad to Mogadishu. Cecil Rhodes would have been truly proud. In fact, Rhodes’ strategem of raising paramilitary forces to break up the Boer state in Transvaal anticipates Jarch’s own by a century or more. It’s classically imperialist.

In fact, Heilberg has undertaken a fairly idiosyncratic reading of imperial history to prepare himself for his African adventures. As he told reporter Barry Morgan in February 2008, “I look at the unwinding of the Ottoman Empire, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two Gulf Wars and the fall-out from Bosnia & Herzegovina and I can see things reverting to a natural state of equilibrium where it simply makes no sense for some nations to be grouped together or stay in their earlier alignment.”

A year later, he was telling reporters that “several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years, and that the political and legal risks he is taking will be amply rewarded.”

But what risks are these? Surely Jarch is acting legally, and in the interests of the people of Sudan? Surely Americans wouldn’t actively seek to disintegrate a mineral rich and potentially ideologically hostile African state for purely financial gain?

Well, the risks are considerable, but more for the people of Sudan, than for Jarch Capital.

Still, Jarch hasn’t exactly found southern Sudan an easy place to do business. In 2005, Heilberg thought that he had sewn up a $15 million deal to secure exploitation rights to an oil block in the region. The government in Juba, however, preferred to do business with a British based firm called White Nile (headed by an ex-test cricketer no less). In response, Heilberg sought to work through ethnically Nuer contacts in the region to whip up anti-Dinka sentiment (the Dinka dominated the government at the time). Turning away from the government, Heilberg struck up a relationship with Nuer leader General Paulino Matip, leader of the South Sudan Defence Forces.

Matip’s forces were then occupying a huge stretch of land, some 240,000 in extent – and promised Heilberg that it would be wrapped up into a “super block” for Jarch to exploit. This proved a canny decision when the government of South Sudan rejected White Nile’s overtures, leaving the ground free for Jarch to step in. Although it can’t extract and export the oil that it has reserved, owing to U.S. government sanctions, if Sudan should break up – and the south become independent – then Jarch will win big. America will too. The blocks that Jarch has reserved were once held by France’s Total, and could have passed to Britain’s White Nile or, horror of horrors – to China.

It’s independence or bust for Washington.

Since those oil deals were signed, Jarch has extended its grip over huge swathes of southern Sudan, raising the stakes in the geopolitical contest for Sudan’s resources. February 2009 saw the extraordinary announcement that the firm had “secured” the rights to 400,000 ha of prime agricultural land (an area “the size of Dubai” as the Financial Times put it).

Jarch had reportedly entered into an agreement with the Sudanese firm LEAC, which just happens to be owned by the son of General Matip, with whom Jarch worked to conquer White Nile’s oil concessions in 2006.

According to the Sudan Tribune, “Through Gabriel Matip’s company, Jarch Capital will have the right to grow products including cereals, oil seeds, vegetables, fruits, and flowers and can process these raw commodities for both local and export use” or, of course, biofuels. This would be an innovative way of evading U.S. sanctions which, while prohibiting oil exports from Sudan, allow agricultural commodities to cross borders (a legacy of Coca-Cola’s lobbying to maintain supplies of gum arabic). Thus, Heilberg is playing a double game. If southern Sudan becomes independent, then sanctions will be moot, and the oil can flow. If independence is delayed (by a referendum scheduled for 2011) then the agrofuels head south, maybe with the odd cut flower to ease the way.

Either way, a huge a mount of land is going to be placed in the hands of American capital. In an article entitled “Sudan beckons for new investors,” the BBC somewhat gleefully suggested that “Such a vast tract of land will require a tremendous amount of labour, so there will be jobs and wages paid” – slave wages, of course, but no matter, as Jarch will be donating 10 percent of its profits to “community projects.”

According to Heilberg, this represents a “populist approach” stemming from their “grassroots” strategy. Yet this is nonsense. Heilberg’s concession is the product of local tyranny, in the form of Matip which is anything but “populist” or “grassroots.” As he told the FT, “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa.”

And not just any guns either. Heilberg went to the guns of a trusted ally of the United States. Matip had been in Washington as recently as August 2008, when he stopped by for “medical treatment” but, as a press release from the government of South Sudan related, he stayed for “talks with U.S. Administration official to discuss their support to transform the Sudan People’s Liberation Army to a conventional army.” A conventional army, in that it defends U.S. business interests.

Although Matip has been accused of warcrimes, he has been rehabilitated for use by Washington and Jarch Capital. As the FT relates, “Mr Matip fought with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement against the northern army before gaining notoriety during one of the bloodiest episodes in Sudan’s civil war, when he switched sides to form his own militia, with backing from parts of his Nuer tribe and the Khartoum regime.” Yet Phil Heilberg is unconcerned, commenting that “I am sure Paulino has killed many, but I am sure he did it in protection of his people.”

Still, it might be possible to see this land deal, and the related oil deal, as good for South Sudan. After all, it’s “investment” and has might build a couple of schools along the way. Yet the deal has apparently simply bypassed the actual government in the region, compromising its authority. The chairman of south Sudan’s Land Commission, Robert Lado, is reportedly “looking into the case,” while “authorities in south Sudan’s capital Juba had not been consulted about the deal and he had first heard about it through media reports.”

The whole notion of enclosing 400,000 ha of land for whatever use is alien to the cultures of the area, even if it has supposed benefits. As Lado continued, “Our land is communal in southern Sudan. An individual can only sell it when there is consensus among members of that community…Even if he is leasing this land on behalf of his family, there are other members of the family. Even if on behalf of his clan there are other members of the clan” yet all of this is irrelevant to Jarch Capital and Washington.

In fact, it seems that Jarch only made details of the land deal public because the government of South Sudan was about to pass a land registration law. Having announced the massive land transfer days before the law was passed, Jarch may well escape its regulations. According to Lado, “it was unclear whether the new regulations would affect land deals like Heilberg’s that had already been signed.”

But what of Darfur? Has Jarch Capital, and the U.S. state with which it has such tight links, been restricted to seeking land in South Sudan? Well, as Heilberg crowed last year, he has been keen to promote separatist causes across central and eastern Africa for personal and geostrategic gain. And his ambitions are now continent-wide. To reiterate the quote mentioned earlier, Heilberg believes that “several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years, and that the political and legal risks he is taking will be amply rewarded.”

Across Africa, U.S. interests are stimulating separatist conflicts so as to enclose the resources that those same separatists lay claim to. The greatest risk that men like Heilberg face is not instability (that’s essential). It is disclosure – being found out. And it’s quite likely that the U.S. has been playing an identical game in Sudan’s Darfur region for years.

Heilberg certainly suggests as much. “If you bet right on the shifting of sovereignty then you are on the ground floor. I am constantly looking at the map and looking if there is any value” he told the FT, which then reported that “he was also in contact with rebels in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, dissidents in Ethiopia and the government of the breakaway state of Somaliland, among others.” That report was in January 2009. Such “contact” is ongoing. The International Republican Institute opened an office in Somaliland last year, for example, suggesting that the assisted disintegration of Somalia is reaching a new stage.

His sentiments reflect U.S. geostrategy, which is not informed strongly by human rights concerns. If it was, then the State Department would be asking serious questions about how deep Jarch’s links with Abdul Wahid Mohammed Nur – the leader of Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement – go. Nur is the primary obstacle to a peace agreement in the region, other rebel groups having long ago expressed a desire to negotiate with Khartoum. Yet Nur fights on.

No, U.S. geostrategy is all about commodities and land. It is about keeping Chinese influence over Africa to a minimum, and if chaos is necessary to achieve this, then chaos “is come again” to use Othello’s evocative words. We should recognize this – that while Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir fulminates against a writ served upon him by the “International Criminal Court” – far greater crimes than his are afoot, and are not likely to be punished any time soon.

A map and information about Jarchs southern Sudan holding, deep in the regions oil fields and near Darfur province

A map and information about Jarch's southern Sudan holding, deep in the region's oil fields and near Darfur province

If you are interested in connecting the dots on Sudan (and Jarch Capital is simply one dot, albeit a very well connected and under-reported one) I recommend reading Keith Harmon Snow’s latest report, “AFRICOM’s Covert War in Sudan: The Winter of Bashir’s Disconent” which has lots of detail on the role played by USAID, Israeli intelligence and NGOs in both Darfur and Southern Sudan.


4 Responses to “Fragmenting Sudan – The Jarch Way”

  1. Watson Says:

    The U.S. seems to be at war with the rest of the world. Knowing this, what are we supposed to do about it? The most awful atrocities are reported and relegated to the back of people’s minds. Perhaps it is time for the TV series where it is made clear that U.S. government agencies are causing death and destruction among the world’s poor. We need the antithesis to 24 where heroes protect the U.S. from external evil. Heroes need to protect the world from the U.S.

  2. Kristin Says:

    Upon learning of Heilberg’s “agricultural investment opportunities” in the latest issue of Forbes Magazine, I searched the internet for more information regarding his plans to help ‘give back’ to the Sudan. I was hoping to appeal to the US government about his ‘business’ ties to war criminals, but clearly the conspiracy goes much higher up than I thought. After reading this article, I realize that Heilberg’s ties to war criminals is not the main issue here, but more-so the potential (further) exploitation of the Sudanese people. What can I do to help stop him from gaining more capital/resources at the expense of innocent people? Who could help?

  3. Faisal Says:

    Look. This isnt a money grab by the USA. Its SUDAN. The country has been a violent cesspool, off and on, since the 1950’s and the USA interest is in bringing stability to the area. We spend more money in aid to keep people fed than what we would ever get out of there. The people of the south are being put through an islamization program of force-feeding sharia law, a system which is extremely unfriendly unless one converts, and they just dont want it.

  4. As a Group working in the African music industry “” is of great interest to us
    well written thank you 🙂

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