'The Secret Of The Seven Sisters' – Episode 2 – The Black El Dorado

The Black El Dorado: Everybody thought there could be oil in Sudan but nobody knew anything. It was revealed through exploration by the American company Chevron, towards the end of the 70s. And that was the beginning of the second civil war, which went on until 2002. It lasted for 19 years and cost a million and a half lives and the oil business was at the heart of it

As the 1960s ended, the Seven Sisters -- the major oil companies -- controlled 85 percent of the world's oil reserves. Today, they control a mere 10 percent.

New territory is needed to satisfy their lust for oil and power, and the Sister's gaze turns towards Africa. With "peak oil," wars in the Middle East, and the rise in crude prices...Africa becomes the oil giants' new battleground.

The real story, the secret story of oil, actually begins far from Africa.

In their bid to dominate Africa, the Sisters installed a king in Libya, a dictator in Gabon, fought the nationalisation of oil resources in Algeria, and through corruption, war and assassinations, brought Nigeria to its knees.

Oil may be flowing into the holds of huge tankers, but in Lagos, petrol shortages are chronic.

The country's four refineries are obsolete and the continent's main oil exporter is forced to import refined petrol - a paradox that reaps fortunes for a handful of oil companies.

Encouraged by the companies, corruption has become a system of government - some $50bn are estimated to have 'disappeared' out of the $350bn received since independence.

But new players have now joined the great oil game.

China, with its growing appetite for energy, has found new friends in Sudan, and the Chinese builders have moved in. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is proud of his co-operation with China - a dam on the Nile, roads, and stadiums.

"Everybody thought there could be oil in Sudan but nobody knew anything. It was revealed through exploration by the American company Chevron, towards the end of the 70s. And that was the beginning of the second civil war, which went on until 2002. It lasted for 19 years and cost a million and a half lives and the oil business was at the heart of it."

- Gerard Prunier, a historian

To be able to export half a million barrels of oil a day from the oil fields in the South, China financed and built the Heglig pipeline connected to Port Sudan. Now South Sudan's precious black crude is shipped through North Sudan to Chinese ports.

And in a bid to secure the oil supplies out of Libya, the US, the UK and the Seven Sisters made peace with formerly shunned Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, until he was killed during the Libyan uprising of 2011. The flow of Libyan oil, however, remains uninterrupted.

Desperately needing funds for rebuilding efforts, Libya is now back to pumping over a million barrels of oil per day. And the Sisters are happy to oblige.

On Tuesday, watch for parts three and four. Or of course, you can view them all at Al Jazeera.

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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