Schibbye and Persson

Africa Oil to meet investors as journalists return

The oil and gas company that Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson planned to investigate in Ethiopia before they were captured will hold an investment seminar on Friday, only blocks away from the two journalists' planned press conference in Stockholm.

Schibbye and Persson traveled to the Ogaden region of Ethiopia in July 2011 to investigate the activities of Africa Oil, a company that was spun off Lundin Petroleum in 2009. But the two journalists were arrested shortly after entering the conflict-ridden region.

Africa Oil will hold an investment lunch meeting with Swedish institutional and retail investors on Friday. That meeting will coincide with Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson's first press conference upon returning to Sweden.

Africa Oil's stock price has risen by 660% this year since the company announced its first major oil discovery in Kenya in March.

But the company and other oil companies operating in East Africa have come under fire from human rights groups. They say the oil companies' presence in Ethiopia has intensified the conflict in the Ogaden region. And civilians and other groups have accused the Ethiopian government and military of carrying out widespread human rights abuses against civilians in the Ogaden.

"We have no experience of specific companies in the Ogaden, but there is a general pattern that heavy security deployments and abuses that go along with that are of course linked to the areas where oil is being explored for," says Ben Rawlence, a senior researcher on Africa at Human Rights Watch.

Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were traveling to the Ogaden to investigate these claims. They were caught by the Ethiopian army in July 2011, put on trial, and handed an 11-year sentence in December for entering the country illegally and supporting terrorism. They were held in prison for 14 months before their pardon and release on Monday.

In a written statement, Africa Oil writes that "We are aware of media reports that we believe distort and misrepresent the truth about Africa Oil's track record on the ground in Ethiopia. It is recognized by all that operating in East Africa brings a range of challenges. However we believe that the sensible and sustainable development of natural resources can lead to a positive economic benefit for the countries in the region and their citizens."

The statement goes on to say that the Ethiopian government provides security for their operations and that there have been no security situations in any areas in which they operate.

Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt sat on the board of Lundin Petroleum, formerly Lundin Oil, from 2000 until 2006.

By Gabriel Stein

"Mock executions" of Swedish journalists

The two Swedish journalists who were arrested in Ethiopia were subjected to fake executions in order to get them to confess to links with a guerilla group, say family members.

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