petroleum industry

Lundin is "aiding ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia"

9:42 min

Criticism is mounting against the foreign minister, Carl Bildt, from those who say that his past involvement in Lundin Petroleum - a company that's possibly involved in Ogaden, a war-torn part of Ethiopia - is skewing the Swedish response to the journalists' trial.

One of those who has been critical of Lundin is Karin Lundell, who wrote an award winning book on this oil and mining group.

Radio Sweden asked Karin Lundell: is Bildt, as foreign minister, doing all he can do help the two journalists? And is it reasonable to have any suspicion that something like a past membership of a company could affect his actions?

She says that Bildt could use his contacts in Lundin to pressurise the Ethiopian government. That this would, in fact, be more effective than acting via the Swedish embassy.

As to the debate over whether Lundin is on the ground in Ogaden, Kerstin Lundell says that although Lundin Petroleum is no longer the operator of the Ogaden wells, the Canada-based Africa Oil Company that took over is partially owned by Lundin. And she adds that Bildt bears moral responsibility for these companies' work in Ogaden, since he was on the board when Lundin Petroleum decided to go into Ogaden, despite protests from local people, human rights groups and one of Lundin's own security consultants.

"According to his own words he saw himself as responsible for the ethical guidelines of the company, but obviously the investment in Ogaden would be unethical by most standards,"says Kerstin Lundell. "He is still morally involved, since it involves very serious crimes against humanity."

She says that her sources in the area speak of massacres, mass rape and burning of villages used by the Ethiopian security forces to force the local people to accept the oil exploitation. Although she adds that the rebel movement is also responsible for some violence.

Kerstin Lundell says that one of the accused journalists, Johan Persson, had contacted her before travelling to Ogaden, to make sure that she was not also going to travel there. She says that it is well known that the only way to enter the conflict area is to travel with the separatist rebels, "but you can't just trust the rebels on their own words, there's corroboration from Human Rights Watch on the atrocities".