by Javier Blas and William Wallis
A US businessman backed by former CIA and state department officials says he
has secured a vast tract of fertile land in south Sudan from the family of a
notorious warlord, in post-colonial Africa's biggest private land deal.
Philippe Heilberg, a former Wall Street banker and chairman of New
York-based Jarch Capital, told the Financial Times he had gained leasehold
rights to 400,000 hectares of land - an area the size of Dubai - by taking a
majority stake in a company controlled by the son of Paulino Matip.
Mr Matip fought on both sides in Sudan's lengthy civil war but became deputy
commander of the army in the autonomous southern region after a 2005 peace
The deal, between Mr Heilberg's affiliate company in the Virgin Islands and
Gabriel Matip, is a striking example of how the recent spike in global
commodity food prices has encouraged foreign investors and governments to
scramble for control of arable land in Africa, even in its remotest parts. . . .
Jarch Management Group is linked to Jarch Capital, a US investment company
that counts on its board former US state department and intelligence
officials, including Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador and expert on
Africa, who acts as vice-chairman; and Gwyneth Todd, who was an adviser on
Middle Eastern and North African affairs at the Pentagon and under former
president Bill Clinton at the White House.
Laws on land ownership in south Sudan remain vague, . . .
Mr Heilberg is unconcerned. He 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. . . .
The company was embroiled in a dispute with the south Sudan government over
its claims to exploration rights for oil.
Salim Lone, "Somalia: Lawless War a
Grab for Oil," Democracy Now!, April 27, 2007
John Gray, "Control Oil and Water,
Control the World," Observer, March 30, 2008
Peter Erlinder, "Darfur
Deception," CommonDreams.org, September 9, 2008
M K Bhadrakumar, "The Great Game of
Hunting Somali Pirates," Asia Times, November 22, 2008
[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. . . .
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.--Guillaume Lavallee, "US eyes future
oil deals in southern Sudan," Middle East Online, February 18, 2009]
[Despite resistance from virtually every nation in Africa, the U.S.
continues to seek a home for its Africa Command, AFRICOM. The lure of
African oil and other resources causes Washington to devise various schemes
to dominate the continent - especially the recruitment of proxies to do the
Americans' bidding. A central Washington political thrust in Africa revolves
around the Darfur region of Sudan, where Colin Powell first charged that
genocide was occurring. What the U.S. really wants is regime change in
Sudan, and control of its oil resources.--Mark P. Fancher, "Why Imperialism Needs Proxies to Do Its Dirty
Work in Africa," opednews.com, February 18, 2009]
"Oil fuels tension in run-up to Sudan referendum," Jane's,
February 26, 2009
[Israeli sources said the plans would focus on collaboration with rebel
forces in the war-torn Darfour province--"Israel plans to strengthen ties with Sudan rebels,"
Guardian, April 7, 2009]
["Most of the land deals documented by this study involved no or minimal
land fees," it says. Although the deals promise jobs and infrastructure
development, it warns that "these commitments tend to lack teeth" on the
contracts.--Javier Blas, "Africa almost giving land away, says UN," Financial Times, May
[ . . . 26 years after the start of Africa's longest-running civil war, and
four years after a peace treaty was signed with the north, the disarming of
the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, the military wing of the governing
Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), finally began.
It was in 2005, after two decades of bitter civil war, that the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between Arab-speaking Khartoum and
the SPLM of the Christian and animist south. . . .
If the referendum leads to independence for the south, the new state will
be born already failed.--Tracy McVeigh, "Guns, children and cattle are the new currency of war in
Southern Sudan ," Guardian, June 21, 2009]
Development Hindered by Vast US Corporate Interests in Continent's Land,
Resources," democracynow.org, August 12, 2009
Sudan struggling with Christian extremist LRA," middle-east-online.com,
September 16, 2009
["We don't trust this government," said Merera Gudina, a leading opposition
figure here who accuses Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of using the
land policy to hold on to power. "We are afraid this government is buying
diplomatic support by giving away land."--"Lured by a new business model, wealthy nations
flock to farmland in Ethiopia, locking in food supplies grown half a world
away," Washington Post, November 23, 2009]
Xan Rice, "Ethiopia - country of the silver sickle - offers land
dirt cheap to farming giants," Guardian, January 15, 2010
Jeffrey Gettleman, "U.S.
Aiding Somalia in Its Plan to Retake Its Capital," New York Times,
March 5, 2010
[The story of Blackwater's efforts in Sudan is a tale of mixed motives that
echo an earlier era of overseas empires, of evangelical Christians who
offered to help defend Christian and animist Southern Sudan from the Muslim
Arab military dictatorship in the north, but also sought to exploit the
region's oil and mineral wealth.
According to two former senior U.S. officials, the firm headed by Prince,
who's long been active in evangelical groups, at one point proposed a broad
defense package that would have required the south to pledge as much as half
its mineral wealth to pay for Blackwater's services. . . .
In addition to its well-known oil and natural gas reserves, Southern Sudan
has vast untapped reserves of gold, iron and diamonds.--Warren P. Strobel,
Jonathan S. Landay and Joseph Neff, "Feds won't charge Blackwater in Sudan sanctions
case," McClatchy Newspapers, June 27, 2010]
[World Bank's draft report said official data for a few countries showed
large transfers, including 3.9m hectares in Sudan and 1.2m in Ethiopia
between 2004 and 2009.--Javier Blas, "World Bank warns on 'farmland grab'," ft.com, July 27, 2010]
[ . . . the Oakland Institute said hedge funds and other foreign firms had
acquired large swathes of African land, . . . displaced millions of small
farmers. . . .
"This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much
bigger threat than terrorism,"--"Hedge funds
'grabbing land' in Africa," BBC News, June 8, 2011]
[India, China and Saudi Arabia were all courted and along with wealthy
Ethiopians have eagerly grabbed large pieces of land at basement prices; rates vary
from $1.10 to $6.05 per hectare (HA), comparable land in India would set you back
$600 per ha.--Graham Peebles, "Corporate
Greed in Africa: The Green Green Gold of Ethiopia," counterpunch, March 8, 2013]
Corruption Perceptions Index 2009