Global Witness Says South Sudan Leadership Uses State-owned Oil to Fund Conflict, Gov’t Denies

By Deng Machol

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir

Juba – the South Sudanese government has refuted claims that the top leadership diverted millions of dollars from the State-owned oil company to finance the ongoing civil war in the country.

The campaign group, Global Witness, in a new investigative report, indicated that Nilepet has fallen under the direct control of President Salva Kiir and his inner circle, is using oil revenues to fuel the conflict, now in its fifth year.

According to its latest report titled, South Sudan “Capture on the Nile”, the group said an investigation it carried out shows how the state-owned oil firm – Nilepet – is being used to funnel millions of dollars in oil revenues to the country’s brutal security services and ethnic militias, with limited oversight and accountability.

The Campaign Leader, Michael Gibb, said Nilepet is deeply integrated into global oil supply chains without which it would be unable to raise revenues.

He said these international trading partners could play a key role in challenging and holding Nilepet accountable.

He added that greater focus on the economic aspects of the conflict can help bring new information to the public and help negotiators in bringing new leverage and influence.

“While South Sudan’s population continues to suffer a senseless war and economic crisis of their leaders’ making, Nilepet is failing its true constituents, serving instead, the interests of a narrow canal, and being used to prolong the brutal conflict,” Michael Gibb, a campaign leader for Conflict Resources at Global Witness said.

However, the Nilepet has dissociated itself to comment when contact on the Global Witness report by Panafricanism.

Meanwhile, a Country’s Information Minister, Michael Makuei has said the report was envisioned to damage the image of the president and the government of the country.

“We all know that Global Witness is US-funded and America has taken an anti-government stance, and Global Witness is an anti-government organization,” Makuei quoted told the BBC on Tuesday.

Secret documents and first-hand testimony were relied on to unearth the dirty deals that occur within the national oil company, repot stated.

In one such document, the report said, the managing director of the Nilepet received a letter requesting a payment of over $1.5 million, for expenses incurred by South Sudan’s national security services.

The national oil company, however, says it operates in secrecy, and the report details how this secrecy has been used to finance military operations, arms transfers to ethnic militias, and conceal the looting of millions of dollars meant to help imports of essential goods as country’s economy deteriorated.

“South Sudan’s security forces are able to operate with alarming impunity driving cycles of violence and oppression,” said Gibb, adding that Nilepet’s ability to finance these operations without scrutiny or oversight is critical and must be tackled as a first step towards confronting this rampant impunity while also creating the economic conditions for peace after years of brutal civil war.”

The report details how revenues from oil resources, the country’s main resources of revenue, are used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, and how a small clique continues to get richer while the majority of South Sudanese suffer or flee their homes due to conflict.

South Sudan which got her independence in 2011, has relied on oil for all its incomes, a situation that has significantly compounded the ongoing political and economic instability, due to the fall in crude oil prices.

While South Sudan is a producer of crude oil, it lacks capacity and infrastructure to refine this into the fuel its population relies on, but it’s only export route is through Sudan, giving Khartoum leverage and leading to ongoing pricing disputes.

As result, Nilepet is deeply integrated into global oil supply chains, including international refineries and commodity traders, without which it would be unable to raise revenues. These international trading partners could play a key role in challenging and holding accountable, report says.

“Nilepet depends on the international oil supply chain,” said Gibb. The international companies it deals with have a responsibility and opportunity to use their influence to drive reform and transparency at this critical moment in South Sudan’s conflict, indifference is tantamount to complicity in the face of clear evidence of Nilepet’s role in the war economy.”

Due to ongoing conflict that erupted in late 2013, has affected country’s oil production, placed a country into far-fetched economic crisis.

South Sudan’s security warring forces have also been accused of atrocities in the country’s civil war, including ethnic cleansing and rape, tens of thousands of deaths and over 4 million people displaced from their homes.

More so, the Global Witness has been engaged in South Sudan affairs since the independence.

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