Machar Says Oil Shutdown Implies ‘Economic Independence’ of South Sudan

South Sudan stopped all oil production last week

The Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, Riek Machar, has criticized the government of Sudan which he said behaved as if South Sudan is still part of Khartoum and not an independent country.

Khartoum unilaterally decided to take millions of barrels of oil belonging to South Sudan that passes through the 1,610km long pipeline from South Sudan to Port Sudan. It claims that South Sudan has not paid a number of fees amounting to a billion US dollars.

However, South Sudan refuted the claims by Sudan, saying it has been paying fees for Khartoum’s facilities such as central processing facility and marine terminal and that the action by Khartoum was “a pure theft”.

The payment by Juba to Khartoum for usage of such facilities was confirmed by the international oil companies operating in the oil sector.

The two countries have however not yet agreed on the amount of fee South Sudan should pay as transit fee per barrel.

Khartoum demands more than 30 dollars per barrel while South Sudan wants to pay an amount which other countries in the region pay for transit fees in similar situations which is always about one dollar per a barrel.

Before the oil shutdown South Sudan had also offered to assist Sudan with billions of dollars as grant to help the latter keep its economy from collapsing, which Machar said Khartoum unfortunately did not show appreciation of.

According to the Vice President’s Press Secretary, James Gatdet Dak, on Monday Machar in his meeting with the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, Hilde Johnson, said despite South Sudan’s territorial, political and administrative independence as a sovereign nation from Sudan since July 9, 2011, Khartoum in its actions continues to pretend that Juba is still its dependent.

The Vice President defended the decision taken by his government to shut down the oil operations, saying this would also imply the new country’s “economic independence.”

He however added that if Khartoum could return the “looted oil” and reach an agreement with Juba on transit fee, the two countries could get back to their normal economic cooperation.

Although he acknowledged hiccups of financial constraints in South Sudan as a result of the shutdown, Machar said the decision was worth it because the country should not continue to pump South Sudan’s property, the oil, in order to be looted by Khartoum.

He further explained that a pipeline to a neighboring country will be constructed in less than one year and resume the oil operations, adding that the government would make sure that the salaries and some important services will be maintained during the year.