January 9, 2009
The Financial Times

U.S. Investor Buys Sudanese Warlord's Land

Believes that several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years

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 agreement.

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,", 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,", 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 24, 2009]

[ . . . 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]

"African Development Hindered by Vast US Corporate Interests in Continent's Land, Resources,", August 12, 2009

"South Sudan struggling with Christian extremist LRA,", 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',", 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

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