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South Sudan’s Christian Leaders Support Prosecution of Oil Tycoons Mentioned in War Crimes

Logo South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC). Credit: Courtesy Photo

The leadership of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) has expressed support for the Swedish government’s decision to prosecute Lundin Energy Oil Company for aiding and abetting war crimes in the country two decades ago. 

In a Thursday, November 18 collective statement, SSCC representatives say, “It is encouraging to know that the Swedish authorities have decided to hold the oil company Lundin Energy to account for its role during the civil war.” 

On November 11, Sweden’s prosecution brought charges against the chairman and former CEO of Lundin Energy, Ian Lundin and Alex Schneiter respectively, for securing the company’s operations by asking the Sudanese government to acquire a potential oil field in the territory that is now part of South Sudan, which was, at the time, Sudan. 

According to the Swedish prosecution, what makes the Lundin representatives complicit in the 1999-2003 operations “is that they made these demands despite understanding or, in any case being indifferent to, the military and the militia carrying out the war in a way that was forbidden according to international humanitarian law.”

In the November 18 statement signed by, among others, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba and Fr. James Oyet Latansio who serve as SSCC Vice Chairman and General Secretary respectively, the Christian leaders say they remain “respectful” of the Swedish government's decision to prosecute Lundin and emphasize the importance of justice in the South Sudan’s peace and reconciliation process. 

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“There is no peace without justice, no reconciliation outside the truth, no forgiveness without repentance. Many grave crimes have been committed against our people in South Sudan and peace remains elusive without justice, truth and repentance,” SSCC officials say.

Sweden started investigating the energy company in 2010 after the Dutch non-governmental organization, Pax, released a report on Lundin’s activities in South Sudan. Pax also called for an investigation into Lundin’s role in the violation of human rights. 

“The prosecutors in the case are also aiming to confiscate about $160m, an equivalent value of profit made by the company on the sale of business in 2003,” according to OGLinks

The current CEO of Lundin, Nick Walker, has denied the allegations against the company and its representatives saying the case is “unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

“There is no evidence linking any Company representative to the alleged primary crimes in this case and we see no circumstance in which a corporate fine or forfeiture could become payable given this fact,” Mr. Walker said.  

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In their November 18 collective statement, SSCC leadership says the victims of abuses in villages around the Lundin oil fields have the “right to access to remedy and reparation.”

The representatives of Christian leaders in South Sudan also express confidence in the Swedish court system saying they “hold it in high esteem and trust its wisdom.” 

“We pray that the trial will help to heal the wounds of our brothers and sisters in Unity State and pave the road for forgiveness and reconciliation,” SSCC leadership says in the November 18 statement obtained by ACI Africa.