Albertina Issa recalled bombs raining on her hometown of Juba, deep in the south of Sudan. Juba was 250 miles from the oil fields but on the front line of the Sudanese war. It was 2003, and Issa, studying economics in Khartoum, had come home to visit her family.
As Catholics, Issa and her husband, Emmanuel Lugang, left Juba to escape both the war and forced conversions to Islam by government forces. After years of exile in Egypt, they moved to Omaha last year. With their three children, they are slowly beginning to prosper, with the help of Project Welcome Sudanese Refugee Community, a local group that has helped 500 southern Sudanese families find jobs, schools and homes.
Lugang and Issa adjusted to Omaha more easily than many other Sudanese because they are well-educated and speak English, said Creighton University theology professor Joan Mueller, who runs Project Welcome.
In a recent telephone call from Sudan, Lugang's brother described Juba today. Despite a 2005 cease-fire, a tenuous alliance between the central Sudanese government and former southern rebels was unraveling. There were few signs, Lugang's brother said, that oil wealth from the north was trickling down.
"We lack medicine, we lack doctors. No school for the kids," he reported.
Instead, according to the Harvard Corp., which manages Harvard University's endowment funds, oil production has become "essential to the government's capacity to fund military operations" — a view shared by the U.S. Department of Energy. For this reason, Harvard has divested from firms with ties to Sudan.
Indeed, 95 U.S. universities, colleges and high schools, along with 31 states including California, and 14 cities including Los Angeles, are considering or have enacted similar divestment policies, according to the Sudan Divestment Task Force, an advocacy group.
Human Rights Watch concluded in 2003: "CNPC and Petronas operations have been complicit in human rights violations. Their activities are inextricably intertwined with the [Sudanese] government's abuses; the abuses are gross; the corporate presence fuels, facilitates or benefits from violations."
Similar complaints have been lodged against Petrodar Operating Co., according to a 2006 report by the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, a group of more than 80 religious and peace groups.
CNPC owns 41% of Petrodar.
A report in 2000 by a Canadian government commission said an airstrip at Heglig, operated by Sudan's Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co., was a staging area for military attacks on civilians.
CNPC owns 40% of Greater Nile.
Oil provides well over half of Sudan's budget, and CNPC buys about two-thirds of that oil.
To Lugang, these reports, together with his brother's words by telephone from Juba, have made it clear: "Sudan is getting money from the Chinese oil companies in order to buy guns and tanks," first to terrorize the south, now Darfur.
Oil money, Lugang said, is "prolonging the war."
A sharp conflict
Because Berkshire Hathaway's stock will become the largest single part of the Gates Foundation's portfolio and will fund half of its future grants, The Times examined holdings in Berkshire's investment portfolio in addition to PetroChina.