Calculating the Debt

Calculating the damages of Sudan’s oil war in Block 5A

The damage calculation in the report Unpaid Debt was intended to show the colossal suffering of the population of Block 5A. The minimum of USD600 million in pecuniary damages was deliberately and sharply underestimated. What may a less restrained calculation look like?

Because many publicly available data about the damages are incomplete and unverified, any estimate will be provisory and rough. The starting point in 2010 was the damage calculation in a civil lawsuit brought by the Presbyterian Church of Sudan against Talisman Energy. The report arbitrarily cut the values of cattle and houses that was used in the US court in half and multiplied that by an intentionally low estimation of lost cattle and structures. Then it added an overly modest US$225 million for the other damages – including losses in income during several years, at least 12.000 death, countless injuries, destruction of families, loss of land, pain, hardship, permanent displacement, loss of opportunities; the kind of things that make life worth living. And it did not factor in interest rates, contrary to legal practice. The report’s final estimation of $600 million was a pretty meagre one by any standard.

It is embarrassing and problematic to translate the value of such losses into amounts of money. Money cannot replace the life of a child, the destruction of a community, or loss of education. But money seems to be the kind of value that is understood by those who came to Sudan to make money in the first place. If we must think money, the table underneath is one way of doing that, as arbitrary as any other way, but in fact quite reasonable,

A calculation of damages of Sudan’s oil war in Block 5A (in USD)

Kind of damage Numbers Value of damage Total (USD)
Deaths 12.000 $ 25.000 $300 million
Forced displacements 160.000 $ 2.000 $320 million
Permanently uprooted 20.000 $ 15.000 $300 million
Stables and houses 40.000 $500 $20 million
Cattle 500.000 $500 $250 million
Goats 100.000 $10 1 million
Food, schools, churches, clinics, personal belongings $10 million
Loss of income during 2 years 240.000 500X2 $240 million
Lost opportunities 160.000 1.500 $240 million
Lost education 50.000 1.000 $50 million
Total     $1.731 million

The members of the Lundin Consortium and their investors were crucial actors and main benefactors of the oil war, and must guarantee remedy for its victims. Lundin itself, the operator and leader of the consortium, should guarantee a substantial part. Not in words, but in deeds. Allocation by Lundin of a substantial sum of money for remedy would show that the company takes its Sudanese legacy seriously. Once the members of the Lundin Consortium and their shareholders acknowledge their duty to provide for remedy of the victims, damages will have to be properly calculated by an independent group of experts. In 2017, when this calculation was presented to Lundin’s AGM,  USD 565 million, or SEK 5 billion, seemed a convincing and perfectly reasonable amount to reckon with, the more as it does not take into accoun that it is established legal custom to calcute interest over the years that have passed between the day damages were inflicted and and payments were received, which could easily quadruple the total damages by 2019, the year the trial against Lundin is likely to open.

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