Paris-based Africa Energy Intelligence (AEI) recently carried a fairly alarming article on Jarch Capital, an investment fund headed by a former Salomon Brothers trader named Phil Heilberg. Jarch has big interests in African natural resources and its leadership includes Joseph Wilson. According to AEI, Jarch has looked for business in Darfur, where Heilberg “has hitched his star to one of the leading rebel chiefs in the region,” as well as in the “breakaway province of Somaliland.” The story says that Jarch’s advisory board includes Tuhat Pol, president of an “Ethiopian opposition movement calling for an armed uprising against the Addis Ababa government.”
An affiliate of Jarch also claims to have a rich oil deal in southern Sudan. I won’t go into all the details, but to make a long story short: the southern Sudanese are intensely divided along ethnic lines and alliances are constantly shifting. A provisional government in the south recently suspended its participation in a union government with the Islamic north. Some fear a resumption of the North-South civil war, one of the bloodiest of modern times, which came to a halt with a peace agreement in 2005. And even if that doesn’t happen, the south might well declare independence from the north before 2011, when a national unity government is supposed to be finalized.
Into this powderkeg comes Jarch, trying to enforce its oil deal (which involves exploration of a huge oil block in southern Sudan that covers 240,000 square kilometers) with threats of legal action. AEI says the investment fund originally signed the deal before the 2005 peace deal, and many in the current southern leadership say it is not binding.
It’s a dangerous situation: “The State Department isn’t supportive of Jarch’s involvement because it knows that once Americans go after oil in the south any hope of a national unity government collapses,” an American who closely follows events in Sudan told me. “The southerners are already fighting over power and this would get them fighting over oil too.”