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Archive for January 11th, 2009

Land Grabing?Former Wall Street banker Philippe Heilberg gambles on a warlord’s continuing control of 400,000 hectares of land in South Sudan

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Former Wall Street banker Philippe Heilberg gambles on a warlord’s continuing control of 400,000 hectares of land in South Sudan Financial Times report by Javier Blas and William Wallis in London January 10 2009:

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 the emirate 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 following 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. In contrast to land deals between foreign investors and governments, Mr Heilberg is gambling on a warlord’s continuing control of a region where his militia operated in the civil war. “You have to go to the guns: this is Africa,” Mr Heilberg said by phone from New York. He refused to disclose how much he had paid for the lease. Jarch Management Group is linked to Jarch Capital, a US investment company that counts on its board former 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 the Middle East and north Africa at the Pentagon and under Bill Clinton at the White House. Laws on land ownership in south Sudan remain vague and have yet to be clarified in a planned land act. Some foreign experts on Sudan as well as officials in the regional government, speaking on condition of anonymity, doubted Mr Heilberg could assert legal rights over such a vast tract of land. The deal is second only in size to the recent lease of 1.3m hectares by South Korea’s Daewoo from the government of Madagascar. 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. “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 said. 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. Mr Heilberg said Jarch had no agricultural expertise but would seek joint-venture partners to cultivate the land, which is in one of the remotest parts of Sudan, in a region bordering the White Nile and with no tarred roads.

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Written by torit1955

January 11, 2009 at 6:52 pm

In Their Own Words: What South leaders say and do!

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By: Theresa Angua, Denmark.

JAN. 11/2009, SSN; South Sudan’s self-imposed leaders have two main
annual rituals: (1) to come to the United States and make good to any
sitting president, and (2) to visit their families that are scattered
across all continents of the world. Last week they did just that. And as
usual, at the nation’s expense.

GOSS President Salva Kiir and a large entourage to America

GOSS President Salva Kiir and a large entourage to America

Salva Kiir for his part, flew in an army of 33 “delegates”, ostensibly
on an official visit. How much it cost South Sudan is anyone’s guess.
And all for a trip that didn’t even get airtime on any network except
for a single sneaked-out photo of him and President Bush. He then went
on to urge South Sudanese in the U.S. to consider returning home and
rebuilding the nation. Easier said than done…

Meanwhile in the Southern Hemisphere, Pagan Amum was busy admitting
[half-heartedly] to the South Sudanese community in Victoria, Australia,
that, “we’ve been a failed state since independence,” and that GOSS is
“like a 3-year old child sitting for university exams”. Let’s take a
look at what these two gentlemen say and what they do.

Salva Kirr may have been in North America to thank President Bush for
what he had done to South Sudan in terms of the CPA (even though he
(Kiir) and his cohorts are miserably failing at keeping it alive) and to
boost the morale of those in exile and garner support.

But he may have also been aware, in his heart of hearts, that
Southerners weren’t going to take his words at face value. Who can blame
them? For there’s a difference between what GOSS wants for South Sudan
and what it can deliver.

The events that have been unfolding in the country post-CPA speak
volumes about what ordinary S. Sudanese can expect from this
tribally-centered, self-serving government.  If GOSS cannot even provide
basic security (let alone basic services and infrastructure), who can be
foolhardy enough to quit a job in the West, go to S. Sudan and find
him/herself without any kind of protection (physical or property) or a
piece of land to build on?

I’m a graduate student from Equatoria (Madi) and our land is perhaps the
most devastated in terms of this GOSS/SPLA-backed lawlessness that has
spiraled out of control. Yet we’re some of the most educated,
highly-skilled, and hardworking Sudanese in Equatoria. If Salva Kirr
were serious about tapping into the expertise of S. Sudanese in exile,
why would he allow this barbaric culture to flourish there?

I’m talking about Madi, Bari, Acholi, Kakwa, and other lands in Greater
Equatoria that have become every criminal’s Mecca. In short, GOSS cannot
allow these unwanted exports [illiterate marauders] from Jonglei State
to continue terrorizing those who genuinely want to develop their land
while preaching “return” overseas. These people are nothing more than an
impediment to development in S. Sudan and GOSS knows that.

So President Kiir, please do some reality check and make sure that what
is happening on the ground is in synch with what you want for S. Sudan.
Otherwise I only see us vying with Somalia for the title of “the most
failed state” in the near future. You have what it takes to become one
and that choice is yours.

Coming back to Pagam Amum, I appreciate his courage for saying that we
have been a failed state since independence. However, he failed to
acknowledge that the very fact that he was in Australia on a personal
trip paid out of the nation’s coffers was itself a contribution to the
failure of Sudan in general and S. Sudan in particular.

There is a strange predilection to blame all of GOSS’s woes on NCP the
same way Mugabe blames all of  Zimbabwe’s on U.K. Mr. Amum can only
convince Southerners that NCP is the problem if and only if he and his
cohort in GOSS can prove that they have dutifully/ethically carried out
all their responsibilities to Southerners. So far, we have not seen
anything tangible post CPA despite the shared oil revenue.

We seem to be going backwards, not forwards. Southern Sudanese are left
to suffer from buyer’s remorse in regards to GOSS/SPLA. We’re no longer
sure which one is better: War-time or peace-time? GOSS or NCP?

In the light of this situation, I would like Mr. Amum to account for
GOSS’s own contribution(s) to the failure of S. Sudan before bashing
Khartoum. Charity begins at home…

As for the “3-year old” analogy that he threw out, Mr. Amum was again
right to admit that GOSS is an entity that is trying to perform duties
it is not qualified for.

Kudos for that; but the truth is, Southern Sudan is not a nation of
3-year olds. So how about make way for qualified individuals to take
over? Because clearly, GOSS has proven that you cannot impose a jungle
administration on a civilized nation. We are a better country than this
and it’s about time a competent administration took over.

Otherwise we are on the verge of becoming the latest laughing stock on
the African continent.

Written by torit1955

January 11, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Activists Forum

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