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Chinese owned oilfield in Ethiopia attacked and destroyed

April 24th, 2007 . by Matt

From the Jerusalem Post

Rebels stormed a Chinese-run oil field at dawn in eastern Ethiopia on Tuesday, killing 74 workers and destroying the facility, the guerrilla group and government officials said.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front, an ethnic Somali group that has fought alongside insurgents in Somalia, also kidnapped seven Chinese workers, said senior Ethiopian government official Bereket Simon.

“This was a cold blooded killing,” Bereket, a special adviser to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told The Associated Press. “This was organized.”

The rebel group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to the AP, saying it had launched “military operations against units of the Ethiopian armed forces guarding an oil exploration site,” in the east of the country.

It also warned all international oil companies not to operate in the region. It did not give any details of casualties, but said they had “wiped out” three Ethiopian military units.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency identified the Chinese workers and Ethiopian guards as employees of the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, a division of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., a huge state-run oil company better known as Sinopec.

Xu Shuang, the general manager of Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, based in Addis Ababa, said nine of its Chinese oil workers were killed, seven Chinese workers were kidnapped and 65 Ethiopians were killed in the fighting.
The Zhongyuan official, whose company began working in Ethiopia’s volatile Somali Regional State last year, declined to give further details of the attack.

The attack took place early Tuesday morning in Abole, a small town 120 kilometers away from the state’s capital Jijiga, close to the Somali border. Bereket said several Ethiopian troops were wounded in the gunbattle.
“The army is pursuing them. We will track them down dead or alive. We will make sure these people will be hunted and be brought to justice.”

He said the group was also linked to the Eritrean government, which Ethiopia has repeatedly accused of waging terror attacks. Eritrea denies the claims.

Both countries fought a bloody border war that ended in 2000 and are accused of backing rival sides in the Somali conflict.

China has increased its presence in Africa in recent years in a hunt for oil and other natural resources to feed its rapidly growing economy.

Its forays into areas considered politically unstable, however, has exposed Chinese workers to attacks.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front issued a warning last year that any investment in the Ogaden area that also benefited the Ethiopian government “would not be tolerated.”

The Ogaden National Liberation Front has been waging a low-level insurgency with the aim of creating an independent state for ethnic Somalis. Somalia lost control of the region in a war in 1977.

The region, which is the size of Britain and home to around 4 million people, is one of the poorest in Ethiopia with bad communications and roads.

China has been working to secure energy resources and expand its influence. A side effect of this is that as the Chinese become involved in other countries, they will offend groups that oppose the governments that the Chinese deal with, and these groups run from national resistance or independence movements, to terrorist groups. Attacks on western oil interests have been common place and as China gains more oil and resource interests, they will be attacked too. How China will deal with these kinds of problems will be interesting to see.


8 Responses to “Chinese owned oilfield in Ethiopia attacked and destroyed”

  1. comment number 1 by: pacifist

    China became a capitalistic country though its nature is still non-democratic country.
    No difference from the imperialistic countries that they had always criticized for many years.
    .
    If Chairman Mao were alive (and his brain were healthy) what would he say?

  2. comment number 2 by: Phil2Musashi

    Africa is continually raped by foriegn powers for its resources; I am surprised there is not more stuff like this happening.

    I think it is very sad that all those workers lost their lives; for them, they are just doing a job.

    In the other post we were talking about what makes someone a terrorist/hero, and I was saying it can be both depending on the perspective. I think it is easy to call these guys terrorists, but I am sure to some people who are tired of having there homes occupied and sucked dry of natural resources, they will be considered heroes.

    Given China’s human rights violation record over much of the last century, I am VERY curious as to how they will handle these events.

  3. comment number 3 by: General Tiger

    About time. There might as well be a terrorist attack on China’s operations in Sudan, to stop the fueling of the Darfar situation.

  4. comment number 4 by: lirelou

    Africa doesn’t get “raped” for its resources. Its governments sell the right to exploit those resources for substantial sums. The fact that little of it trickles down to those in need can be attributed to the realities of African politics, which are generally ethnic and tribally based. Arguing that Africa would be better off without foreign investment or exploitation of its resources is akin to arguing that colonialism should be reintroduced, just because many countries’ populations were better off under paternalistic colonial regimes. I’m sure Africa would be a real paradise if only those nasty international companies went home and forewent foreign direct investment altogether. As for what the Chinese can do: Just about what other countries interested in the region can do. Develop arms sales and military training packages that increase the capability of each “nation’s” armed forces. Wait, that’s been tried, and it has only led to larger and more tenaceous kleptocracies. When the alternative is murdered national technicians working in industries deemed crucial to development in which significant amounts have been invested, most advanced nations see themselves as having little choice. Welcome to Africa 101. And yes, we should pause to remember that these 74 workers of all nationalities were just human beings trying to put more bread or rice or yams on their family tables.

  5. comment number 5 by: egg

    lirelou
    Sorry, I could take not all of your intention but at laest this part

    we should pause to remember that these 74 workers of all nationalities were just human beings trying to put more bread or rice or yams on their family tables.

    I totally agree. But how to improve the situation, I am sorry to say I have no idea. Sigh.

  6. comment number 6 by: Matt

    As for what the Chinese can do: Just about what other countries interested in the region can do. Develop arms sales and military training packages that increase the capability of each “nation’s” armed forces. Wait, that’s been tried, and it has only led to larger and more tenaceous kleptocracies. When the alternative is murdered national technicians working in industries deemed crucial to development in which significant amounts have been invested, most advanced nations see themselves as having little choice.

    This is why I pondered on how China would deal with it. It may be that one day we will see Chinese soldiers defending Chinese resources in Africa if the African governments are incapable of doing it.

  7. comment number 7 by: lirelou

    It is unlikely we will see Chinese soldiers directly involved. More likely are Chinese trained and advised African soldiers doing the work, and in times of crisis when their supported regimes are under threat of overthrow, perhaps the introduction of modest sized Chinese forces meant to stabalize the situation in the capital and provide their Ambassador with a small strike force for special tactical operations in the oilfields or mine areas. Chinese forces are quite capable of such a missions, particularly if they are of the quick in and out variety, leaving the bulk of soldiering to host nation troops. I doubt they currently have the ability to raise a “35 Battalion” clone, similar to that feared unit of the Angola war, but in Africa armed force is relative. It would be a logistical nightmare for China to operate in Africa on any scale above the bare minimum. Arms and training packages, and the occasional deployment of very small elite forces, are their best solution.

  8. comment number 8 by: GarlicBreath

    74 humans lost their lives, and still not much press. I wonder if the world would notice if a wacky Korean had gunned them down. Its sad that they will be forgotten, but people around the world will notice about the events at V Tech.