From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Jan 10 2009 - 22:51:10 EST
Published: January 9 2009 23:18 | Last updated: January 9 2009 23:18
By Javier Blas and William Wallis | Financial Times
US investor buys Sudanese warlord's land
A U.S. businessman backed by former CIA and state department officials
says he has secured a vast tract of fertile land in south Sudan from the
family of a notorious warlord, in post-colonial Africa's biggest private
Philippe Heilberg, a former Wall Street banker and chairman of New
York-based Jarch Capital, told the Financial Times he had gained
leasehold rights to 400,000 hectares of land - an area the size of Dubai
- by taking a majority stake in a company controlled by the son of
Mr Matip fought on both sides in Sudan's lengthy civil war but became
deputy commander of the army in the autonomous southern region after a
2005 peace agreement.
The deal, between Mr Heilberg's affiliate company in the Virgin Islands
and Gabriel Matip, is a striking example of how the recent spike in
global commodity food prices has encouraged foreign investors and
governments to scramble for control of arable land in Africa, even in
its remotest parts.
In contrast to land deals between foreign investors and governments, Mr
Heilberg is gambling on a warlord's continuing control of a region where
his militia operated in the civil war between Khartoum and south Sudan.
"You have to go to the guns, this is Africa," Mr Heilberg said by phone
from New York. He refused to disclose how much he had paid for the
Jarch Management Group is linked to Jarch Capital, a US investment
company that counts on its board former US state department and
intelligence officials, including Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador and
expert on Africa, who acts as vice-chairman; and Gwyneth Todd, who was
an adviser on Middle Eastern and North African affairs at the Pentagon
and under former president Bill Clinton at the White House.
Laws on land ownership in south Sudan remain vague, and have yet to be
clarified in a planned land act. For this reason, some foreign experts
on Sudan as well as officials in the regional government, speaking on
condition of anonymity, doubted Mr Heilberg could assert legal rights
over such a vast tract of land. The deal is second only in size to the
recent lease of 1.3m hectares by South Korea's Daewoo from the
government of Madagascar.
Mr Heilberg is unconcerned. He believes that several African states,
Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are
likely to break apart in the next few years, and that the political and
legal risks he is taking will be amply rewarded.
"If you bet right on the shifting of sovereignty then you are on the
ground floor. I am constantly looking at the map and looking if there is
any value," he said, adding that he was also in contact with rebels in
Sudan's western region of Darfur, dissidents in Ethiopia and the
government of the breakaway state of Somaliland, among others.
The company was embroiled in a dispute with the south Sudan government
over its claims to exploration rights for oil.
Mr Heilberg said Jarch had no expertise in agricultural development but
would be seeking joint venture partners to cultivate the land, which is
in one of the remotest parts of Sudan, in a region bordering the Nile
river but with no tarred roads.
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