South Sudan Oil: The cause of the internal conflict.
By Luk Riek Nyak
Juba, June 13 2015 – I would not go into more detail pertaining to the causes of this war that we are in today but many of the readers may get surprise merely on the issue whether the Country’s only resource “the oil” becomes the cause of the current and prolonging suffering in the entirely nation.
Let me take you back to make short briefing on South Sudan which is characterized by a wealth of resources, in contrast with the resource-poor country of North Sudan. It has one of the richest, agriculturally fertile lands in Africa with more-than-adequate water supplies. The country has about 20 million heads of cattle and also wildlife herds, which can help establish eco-tourism in the future. This new country, the South Sudan, produces three-fourths of the former Sudan’s total oil output at nearly a half a million barrels per day before December 2013, the country was highly depends on its oil revenue, with oil constituting 98% of South Sudan’s budget that was later on reduced when some of the oil fields were shut down and the income generating revenue in the whole country have nowhere to be seen.
As the war is intensifying in and around the oil producing States, many of the oil infrastructures including the only oil refinery in the Country was partly damages as well as nearly 30% of oil wells were bombed and destroyed in Unity State and all properties looted between December 2013 and February 2014 this would cost the Oil Operating companies billions of Dollars to fix it in the near future. Now the country’s ruling regime depend on small portion of oil drop from Upper Nile’s oil field at Palouch.
Before the independent of the Republic of South Sudan, the government was accused of only spending on military warfare and not in human security, the government was accusations of oil revenue misappropriation as widely spread, social and environmental consequences of extraction of oil on the local communities living around the oil fields were persevering.
The oil resource in South Sudan can be a ‘blessing’ if to be used positively for development or it can be a ‘curse’, where conflict is fuelled to serve the economic interests of multinational companies and corrupt government officials which is the case today.
Many experts predicted that, there are many influences that could make South Sudan susceptible to future wars and make the resource more of a curse than a blessing as it highly depend on natural resource exports, weak institutions and poor governance, unemployment, lack of diversified economic opportunities, limited education, vast geography, nepotism, tribal affiliation and conflict history. This is the stage our country is in now a day.
The oil resources was one the causes of this conflict. For instant, when misunderstanding outstretched within the ruling party was the only issue that we know as described by international spectators as tribal conflict between the two most populated tribes in South Sudan, the Nuer and the Dinka but there is no doubt that resources curse fueled the crisis.
As one concern citizen who worked for years in the field of resources and revenues governance including the protection of the ecosystem in the areas where oil production is taking place, it’s obvious that oil resources governance contributed to this conflict.
To pick out some few points, there was a big fight and misunderstanding among the top government officials after when H.E. the President of the Republic of South Sudan dismissed a proposal from the former Governor of Unity State Taban Deng Gai to construct the Country’s first refinery at Yot-nhial some few miles east of Unity Oil Field as the only way to improve the economics of the country and to also improve the lives of the local communities living around the oil producing areas.
H.E. the President has objected the proposal and insisted that the refinery is to be reallocated from Unity State to Warrap State, a demand rejected by the government and the people of Unity State. One year later after this misunderstanding, the President issued Republican Decree retiring the Governor which subsequently followed by his relieved as the State Governor.
But before his relieved the National Ministry of Petroleum and Mining agreed that the construction of oil refinery should be in Unity State and not in Warrap and a contract was signed with Russian own Refinery Company, Safinat which was then completed pending inauguration in late July 9th 2014 as of such, the three percent oil revenue that is to shape up the development in the oil producing areas disappeared between the national and the state government living the affected communities venerable.
This was substantially followed by the dismissal of the Vice President and the entire cabinet, which then fueled tension within the Ruling party, the SPLM.
Many of you may somehow disagreed with me on these points that figured out South Sudan Oil as the cause of this conflict plus the planted hate in the heart of Dinka and Nuer but if South Sudan has not been blessed with this natural but depleting resources, the suffering that we are in now would not have come, thousands of blamelessness civilians would not have been killed ethnically and millions more would not have been displaced to seek refuge under the protection of UN in their own country which in turn return as shameful philosophy to our leaders whose vision is beyond doubt that they want to enrich themselves sidelining the development and put the life of the new nation at risk. the country is government would only tackle the issue of cattle rustling and not tribe conflict.
Now the current conflict in rapidly building up around oil producing areas in which each party want to have a control over it as government want the continuation of the flow of oil to get some dollars to import foods and to buy more military equipment while the opposition in the other hand is fighting to halt the oil production so that government would not be able to purchase more weapons to fight them. “The life of the whole nation is at total mess”
It was well noted that the unequal distribution of wealth such as three percent oil revenues that has been given to the oil producing communities have not been going in the right directions as people though of equitable distribution of wealth, construction of healthcare centers, school, roads and clean drinking water which had not happened during the last eight years of self-rule and after the independent.
As we speak today, the entirely citizens of this country are suffering from all sorts of live and there is urgent need to bring peace back to the country by forming a government of national unity but absent of peace till the 9th of July this year, the country will witness worse and unforgettable disaster on earth where rebellion will like increases, food scarcity among other will hit the nation. Both the government and the opposition force must respect the lives of the people of South Sudan and to urgently sign peace deal as soon as possible, failing to do so, the AU, TROIKA with the help of UN Security C council should impose sanction to the leaders of the both warring part and force them to leave to leadership by selecting neutral body to take the country forward for a period not less than three years. Without taking immediate action by the international body, South Sudanese will love not to be in South Sudan.
More specifically, we do not give preference to a brutal, corrupt and autocratic regime who divides its citizens based on ethnicity and who has no respect for its own people. They are being persecuted, killed and now when they want to find a safe place for refuge, they are now being threatened, arrested and handed over to the same regime on both sides that has been killing them.
South Sudanese leaderships must be ambassador of peace, unity, reconciliation to the people of South Sudan.
What is next after we achieved peace?
It’s not clear whether the recent IGAD plus proposal would be honored by the warring parties in South Sudan whose people fought with Khartoum Government for over 21 years to achieved an independence Country which of course was declared on the 9th July 2011 after coming through many and countless challenges by then the government of the autonomous Southern Sudan, the internal conflict, cattle rustling, abductions, rebellions and communal fighting did not stop since the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement in 2015 and where many citizens lost their lives daily between the tri State of Lake, Unity and Warrap and Jonglei State in the other side..
Before the 15th of December 2013 extermination and after the incident, many faultfinders predicted that after this senseless war in South Sudan, it would be likely that South Sudanese will experience another borders war with its four neighboring Countries of Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Central Africa Republic who are now benefiting from this conflict by occupying many areas with potential natural resources inside South Sudan.
Take for example, the Republic of Uganda where all food supplies and other commodities are coming from and fighting alongside with the government against the opposition forces, there is no doubt that the Government of South Sudan will experience another conflict bordering if not in peaceful means with these countries mentioned earlier.
The IGAD plus proposal to end the eighteen months of conflict if agree by the warring parties would bring a lasting peace in the Country. Both parties are urged to respect and to concern this as the only way to achieve peace despite what conditions it contained but for the sake of peace and patriotism there is much hope that the leadership should put the nation and its people at first then comes their personal demands.
We feared that when peace come and the people of South Sudan realized that its neighboring countries have already occupied some parts from the land of South Sudan, the Country, South Sudanese will have no enough armies to fight against any external aggression as nearly all the troops lost their lives in this senseless and useless war of power greed.
Now is the time for South Sudanese leaders to be serious about the peace to come back home before the 9th of July 2015 so that the lucky youths who are still alive today because their day has not come can continue in the contingent and the protection of the sovereignty of South Sudan.
During this period, the leadership of both side and their external friends might have to look beyond on how to bring peace back to the Country that lost more than seventy thousand lives if I am not wrong, displaced millions more and properties worse of billion Dollars destroyed during the 17 months of conflict as such South Sudan becomes one of the failed and poorest state in the World.
I hope that our future policies will be in greater alignment with the values of a free society because this new country, South Sudan came at great cost where it citizens should not be subjected to death, torture and rape by their own government as we all fought for something better rather than this and we trust that South Sudanese can be an advocate for freedom for all the people regardless of their tribes, genders and political affiliation.
The author is a Secretary General for Unity Oil Taskforce, a civil Society Organization working in the area of Resources and Revenue Governance. He can be reach at Lukriek@gmail.com
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