An Oily Deal

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support today for as little as $1 per month!

"There are no redeeming features to Talisman's presence in Sudan," said former UNICEF ambassador Stephen Lewis. "There is absolutely no question that oil is fueling the [civil] war."

As Canada's largest oil company, Talisman likes to style its presence in Sudan as "constructive engagement." Talisman has commissioned reports on Corporate Responsibility to justify its investments there.

"Although a company must operate according to local laws," Talisman staff Jacqueline Sheppard and Reg Manhas wrote in Oil & Gas Weekly last November, "Talisman also works to uphold Canadian principles and international standards."

Other organizations do not agree. ''The civilian population living in oil fields and surrounding areas has been deliberately targeted for massive human rights abuses," Amnesty International reported in May 2000. According to AI, treatment includes "forced displacement, aerial bombardments, strafing villages from helicopter gunships, unlawful killings, torture including rape and abduction.''

The UK Christian Aid organization issued a similar report in March 2001, adding that, "Since large-scale production began two years ago, oil has moved the war into a new league. Across the oil-rich regions of Sudan, the government is pursuing a 'scorched earth' policy to clear the land of civilians and to make way for the exploration and exploitation of oil by foreign oil companies."

Since 1956, the civil war in Sudan has killed 2-million people and displaced more than four million within the country. An Africa-watcher for more than forty years, Stephen Lewis said that Sudan "is worse than Angola, worse than Sierra Leone." Due to the war's duration, he said, "it is worse, even, than Rwanda."

And yet - there was a point in 1998 when, "the war was at a stalemate." Then came the discovery of significant amounts of oil. With increased activity by the giant consortium - in which Talisman owns a 25 per cent share (but provides most of the technical expertise) - atrocities have mounted: mass murder, forcible displacement, famine and slavery. There is substantial evidence of government ties with mercenaries who force captured children and women to work as sex slaves or child soldiers.

Stephen Lewis called for Canada to pass legislation, similar to the boycott against South Africa during the apartheid era, requiring Talisman to sell or suspend operations in Sudan until blatant human rights violations end. Talisman, he said, "is tarnishing Canada's reputation."

More Related Items

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.