Tag Archives: africa

Secret Seven Sisters: Rise and Rise of the seven sisters.

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On August 28, 1928, in the Scottish highlands, began the secret story of oil.

Three men had an appointment at Achnacarry Castle – a Dutchman, an American and an Englishman.

The Dutchman was Henry Deterding, a man nicknamed the Napoleon of Oil, having exploited a find in Sumatra. He joined forces with a rich ship owner and painted Shell salesman and together the two men founded Royal Dutch Shell.

The American was Walter C. Teagle and he represents the Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller at the age of 31 – the future Exxon. Oil wells, transport, refining and distribution of oil – everything is controlled by Standard oil.

The Englishman, Sir John Cadman, was the director of the Anglo-Persian oil Company, soon to become BP. On the initiative of a young Winston Churchill, the British government had taken a stake in BP and the Royal Navy switched its fuel from coal to oil. With fuel-hungry ships, planes and tanks, oil became “the blood of every battle”.

The new automobile industry was developing fast, and the Ford T was selling by the million. The world was thirsty for oil, and companies were waging a merciless contest but the competition was making the market unstable.

That August night, the three men decided to stop fighting and to start sharing out the world’s oil. Their vision was that production zones, transport costs, sales prices – everything would be agreed and shared. And so began a great cartel, whose purpose was to dominate the world, by controlling its oil.

Four others soon joined them, and they came to be known as the Seven Sisters – the biggest oil companies in the world.

In the first episode, we travel across the Middle East, through both time and space.

“We waged the Iran-Iraq war and I say we waged it, because one country had to be used to destroy the other. As they already benefit from the oil bonanza, and they’re building up financal reserves, from time to time they have to be bled.”

– Xavier Houzel, an oil trader

Throughout the region’s modern history, since the discovery of oil, the Seven Sisters have sought to control the balance of power.

They have supported monarchies in Iran and Saudi Arabia, opposed the creation of OPEC, profiting from the Iran-Iraq war, leading to the ultimate destruction of Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

The Seven Sisters were always present, and almost always came out on top.

Since that notorious meeting at Achnacarry Castle on August 28, 1928, they have never ceased to plot, to plan and to scheme.

At the end of the 1960s, the Seven Sisters, the major oil companies, controlled 85 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Today, they control just 10 percent.

New hunting grounds are therefore required, and the Sisters have turned their gaze towards Africa. With peak oil, wars in the Middle East, and the rise in crude prices, Africa is the oil companies’ new battleground.

“Everybody thought there could be oil in Sudan but nobody knew anything. It was revealed through exploration by the American company Chevron, towards the end of the 70s. And that was the beginning of the second civil war, which went on until 2002. It lasted for 19 years and cost a million and a half lives and the oil business was at the heart of it.”

– Gerard Prunier, a historian

But the real story, the secret story of oil, begins far from Africa.

In their bid to dominate Africa, the Sisters installed a king in Libya, a dictator in Gabon, fought the nationalisation of oil resources in Algeria, and through corruption, war and assassinations, brought Nigeria to its knees.

Oil may be flowing into the holds of huge tankers, but in Lagos, petrol shortages are chronic.

The country’s four refineries are obsolete and the continent’s main oil exporter is forced to import refined petrol – a paradox that reaps fortunes for a handful of oil companies.

Encouraged by the companies, corruption has become a system of government – some $50bn are estimated to have ‘disappeared’ out of the $350bn received since independence.

But new players have now joined the great oil game.

China, with its growing appetite for energy, has found new friends in Sudan, and the Chinese builders have moved in. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is proud of his co-operation with China – a dam on the Nile, roads, and stadiums.

In order to export 500,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil fields in the South – China financed and built the Heglig pipeline connected to Port Sudan – now South Sudan’s precious oil is shipped through North Sudan to Chinese ports.

In a bid to secure oil supplies out of Libya, the US, the UK and the Seven Sisters made peace with the once shunned Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, until he was killed during the Libyan uprising of 2011, but the flow of Libyan oil remains uninterrupted.

In need of funds for rebuilding, Libya is now back to pumping more than a million barrels of oil per day. And the Sisters are happy to oblige.

In the Caucasus, the US and Russia are vying for control of the region. The great oil game is in full swing. Whoever controls the Caucasus and its roads, controls the transport of oil from the Caspian Sea.

Tbilisi, Erevan and Baku – the three capitals of the Caucasus. The oil from Baku in Azerbaijan is a strategic priority
for all the major companies.

From the fortunes of the Nobel family to the Russian revolution, to World War II, oil from the Caucasus and the Caspian has played a central role. Lenin fixated on conquering the Azeri capital Baku for its oil, as did Stalin and Hitler.

On his birthday in 1941, Adolf Hitler received a chocolate and cream birthday cake, representing a map. He chose the slice with Baku on it.

On June 22nd 1941, the armies of the Third Reich invaded Russia. The crucial battle of Stalingrad was the key to the road to the Caucasus and Baku’s oil, and would decide the outcome of the war.

Stalin told his troops: “Fighting for one’s oil is fighting for one’s freedom.”

After World War II, President Nikita Krushchev would build the Soviet empire and its Red Army with revenues from the USSR’s new-found oil reserves.

Decades later, oil would bring that empire to its knees, when Saudi Arabia and the US would conspire to open up the oil taps, flood the markets, and bring the price of oil down to $13 per barrel. Russian oligarchs would take up the oil mantle, only to be put in their place by their president, Vladimir Putin, who knows that oil is power.

The US and Putin‘s Russia would prop up despots, and exploit regional conflicts to maintain a grip on the oil fields of the Caucusus and the Caspian.

But they would not have counted on the rise of a new, strong and hungry China, with an almost limitless appetite for oil and energy. Today, the US, Russia and China contest the control of the former USSR’s fossil fuel reserves, and the supply routes. A three-handed match, with the world as spectators, between three ferocious beasts – The American eagle, the Russian bear, and the Chinese dragon.

Peak oil – the point in time at which the highest rate of oil extraction has been reached, and after which world production will start decline. Many geologists and the International Energy Agency say the world’s crude oil output reached its peak in 2006.

But while there may be less oil coming out of the ground, the demand for it is definitely on the rise.

One cant help but wonder what happens when oil becomes more and more inaccessible, while at the same time, new powers like China and India try to fulfill their growing energy needs.

And countries like Iran, while suffering international sanctions, have welcomed these new oil buyers, who put business ahead of lectures on human rights and nuclear ambitions.

At the same time, oil-producing countries have had enough with the Seven Sisters controlling their oil assets. Nationalisation of oil reserves around the world has ushered in a new generation of oil companies all vying for a slice of the oil pie.

These are the new Seven Sisters.

Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, the largest and most sophisticated oil company in the world; Russia’s Gazprom, a company that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin wrested away from the oligarchs; The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which, along with its subsidiary, Petrochina, is the world’s secnd largest company in terms of market value; The National Iranian Oil Company, which has a monopoly on exploration, extraction, transportation and exportation of crude oil in Iran – OPEC’s second largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia; Venezuela’s PDVSA, a company the late president Hugo Chavez dismantled and rebuilt into his country’s economic engine and part of his diplomatic arsenal; Brazil’s Petrobras, a leader in deep water oil production, that pumps out 2 million barrels of crude oil a day; and Malaysia’s Petronas – Asia’s most profitable company in 2012.

Mainly state-owned, the new Seven Sisters control a third of the world’s oil and gas production, and more than a third of the world’s reserves. The old Seven Sisters, by comparison, produce a tenth of the world’s oil, and control only three percent of the reserves.

The balance has shifted.

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Ambivalence of the Arab spring in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa that commenced in 2010 has become known as
the “Arab Spring”,  and sometimes as the “Arab Spring and Winter”,  “Arab Awakening”  or “Arab
Uprisings”  even though not all the participants in the protests are Arab. It was sparked by the first protests that occurred
in Tunisia on 18 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzid, following Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in protest of police corruption and ill
treatment. With the success of the protests in Tunisia, a wave of unrest sparked by the Tunisian “Burning Man” struck
Algeria, Jordan , Egypt , and Yemen , then spread to other countries. The largest, most organised demonstrations have often
occurred on a “day of rage”, usually Friday afternoon prayers. The protests have also triggered similar unrest outside
the region .

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As of September 2012, governments have been overthrown in four countries. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi
Arabia on 14 January 2011 following the Tunisian revolution protests. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February
2011 after 18 days of massive protests, ending his 30-year presidency. The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown on 23
August 2011, after the National Transitional Council (NTC) took control of Bab al-Azizia . He was killed on 20 October 2011, in his
hometown of Sirte after the NTC took control of the city. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed the GCC power-transfer deal
in which a presidential election was held, resulting in his successor Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi formally replacing him as the
president of Yemen on 27 February 2012, in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

During this period of regional unrest, several leaders announced their intentions to step down at the end of their current terms.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015,  as did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-
Maliki, whose term ends in 2014, although there have been increasingly violent demonstrations demanding his immediate
resignation. Protests in Jordan have also caused the sacking of four successive governments by King Abdullah .The
popular unrest in Kuwait has also resulted in resignation of Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah cabinet.

The geopolitical implications of the protests have drawn global attention,  including the suggestion that some protesters may be
nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize . Tawakel Karman from Yemen was one of the three laureates of the 2011 Nobel Peace
Prize as a prominent leader in the Arab Spring. In December 2011, Time magazine named “The Protester” its ” Person of the Year “.

Another award was noted when the Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda won the 2011 World Press Photo award for his image
of a Yemeni woman holding an injured family member, taken during the civil uprising in Yemen on 15 October 2011.

Back in December 2010 , no one was aware that the suicidal gesture of a young Tunisian street vendor would trigger a tidal wave of
unprecedented popular uprisings in his country and others .

The media reverberations have shaken the whole planet. However, in Sub – Saharan Africa , the impact was more profound than in other
continents . There was a spontaneous identification with the popular protests going on in Tunisia , Libya, Egypt , etc. not only because of
the geographical proximity , but also because of the many similarities as regards the socio – economic and political situations , and the
deep -rooted links between the nations north and south of the Sahara .

A glimpse of hope for Africa ?

Many Africans were saying in whispers: ‘ If they can do it , why can ’t we do it too?’

When demonstrators in Tahrir square , Habib Bourguiba avenue, or Al Mahkama square (Benghazi ), shouted their anger against protracted
dictatorship, resources plundering by ruling party members , the Head of State and the First Lady’ s relatives , against sham elections ,
deterioration of health , education and public services , etc . many Africans felt they had been victims to the same evils for ages . Even
those countries with a degree of political and media pluralism coupled with formal electoral competition , were not immune from that
identification . Actually, the immediate and more pressing needs of the African populace is neither political pluralism nor fair and free
elections , but primarily : decent conditions of living , equitable resource distribution , equality of citizens before the Law , and above all :
jobs !

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Joblessness , spiralling poverty and hopelessness are made more and more intolerable, in comparison to the unashamed luxurious life – style
of the regimes’ cronies .

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It was no surprise,then , to see demonstrations, albeit limited , erupting in a dozen of African countries , with open reference to the Arab
Spring . Many Africans were saying in whispers: ” If they can do it , why can ’t we do it too ?”
As for the African governments , there was a real sense of anguish and even fear . In Eritrea and other countries, media coverage of the
popular protests was officially forbidden. In Zimbabwe activists were arrested for circulating videos of the Arab uprisings . In the republic
of Chad , senior military officers and members of the parliament , some of them from the ruling party itself, have been imprisoned [ Fr ]
for months , for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government through an ” African Summer” inspired by the ” Arab Spring ” .

Those were the immediate reactions , but with time, things have evolved in different directions . Those ” down under” (“ceux d ‘ en bas ” , in
French ) became concerned about the turn of events in the Arab Spring countries . Interrogations turned into disappointment ,
disappointment turned into suspicion and , sometimes, outright rejection . On the other hand, the authorities gained confidence about their
ability to prevent, or at least circumscribe, any popular movement .
Fears and conspiracies

There are a number of reasons for that negative evolution , the more prominent ones being : the NATO military intervention in Libya , the
political pre – eminence of Islamist political parties , the sudden rise of the Jihadist / armed groups in Northern Mali and Syria , and the
armed forces interference with the political process in Egypt.

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As for Libya , we should bear in mind that late Colonel Gaddafi had gone a long way to assert himself as the champion of African
sovereignty and unity in the face of the West. Besides , many believed that the NATO military intervention went far beyond its no -fly
zone mandate, and that the bloody showdown in Libya could have been avoided, had the members of the UN Security Council given a
chance to the African Union initiative for a negotiated post- Gaddafi transition.

We must admit that some African intellectuals , particularly those with dogmatic conception of pan- Africanism , not so enthusiastic about
any criticism against Gaddafi , tried to reinterpret the Arab Spring phenomenon in an exaggeratedly negative way . Some governmental
circles had either encouraged or directly got involved in the recruiting of mercenaries for the benefit of Gaddafi . They began rubbing
their hands with glee , advocating that ; the brutal increase of security threats in Mali and in the Sahel- Sahara region at large , the
persistence of militia groups in Libya, as well as the horrid scale of illegal immigration- related humanitarian disasters , are proof that
the world without Gaddafi is far from being a better place.

Conspiracy theories started to flourish. For some , the popular movement has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaida
organisations with help from Gulf countries . For others , the whole process should be reassessed as a Western scheme , secretly crafted
years before the events , aiming at disorganising, if not directly destroying the concerned states , in order to weaken them.

If we add the complaints about the harassment of Sub – Saharan Africans by militia and security operatives in Libya and the mitigated
attitude of the Algerian authorities towards the international military intervention against Jihadi groups in Northern Mali , we can
assume that there is a serious misunderstanding between the Sub – Saharan Africans and their Arab “ brothers ” , and that the so much
trumpeted Afro – Arab solidarity and cooperation might be seriously undermined .

The way forward

In order to avoid putting the long standing Afro- Arab relationship in jeopardy, the elites in both regions should rise to their historical
responsibilities and bridge the gaps that start to take shape.

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African democracy advocates must emphasise the most important lessons of the Arab Spring . That being ; Bouazizi ’s sacrifice and the
social and political earthquake it has triggered, is proof that any autocratic regime , no matter how mighty and how bloody, can be
defeated by poor, downtrodden , ordinary citizens . Furthermore , the spark thrown around by the heroic people of Tunisia , has not only
burnt down the thrones of many a tyrant , but will reshape the whole course of history in the Arab world, in Africa and even in the whole
globe ; as did the storming of the Bastille prison , during the French revolution , which heralded the historical demise of absolutism and the
rise of republics throughout Europe and beyond .

They must also, unequivocally , distantance themselves from any attempt at depreciating the Arab Spring by instrumentalising the
shortcomings and contradictions absolutely unavoidable in such a titanic and complex struggle as the one which the Arab peoples have
been engaged in . These shortcomings would turn out as an invaluable gift , if we understand them as an opportunity for the rest of us to
draw the real lessons from the mistakes that were made , avoid reproducing them in our countries, thus enabling us to shorten the long
and rough road to liberty and dignity .

Arab democrats also should assume their share of the responsibility . They must keep in mind , and make their public opinions understand,
that Africa is far from a homogeneous entity . Dictators , only concerned about their longevity in power perhaps even at the price of
comprising Afro – Arab solidarity , should not be confused with the peoples . Narrow – minded chauvinists should not be confused with
genuine patriots..

The challenges facing us are of the same nature ; therefore , understanding and mutual support are central to the success of each of us.

Posted by Aduari Tekena. Teks4u200@gmail.com