March 28, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s minister of electricity and dams, David Deng Athorbei, warned on Wednesday of possible power blackout in the country’s capital Juba due to fuel shortages.
- South Sudan’s minister of finance and economic planning David Deng Athorbei speaks to the press on 23 August 2010 (Photo AFP)
Athorbei accused neighbouring Sudan of cutting fuel supplies immediately after South Sudan became independent in July 2011. The new nation has to import fuel and many other essential goods.
Since the closure of the border between Sudan and South Sudan prices of food and goods have increased dramatically.
Although South Sudan took with it 75% of Sudan’s known oil when it seceded it still had to export its oil through the north’s pipelines and refineries. Having no refineries of its own South Sudan still has to import fuel.
A dispute over transit fees led Juba to stop all production in February, depriving South Sudan of 98% of its income.
The electricity minister said that the was a "possibility of totally blackout of Juba" due to fuel the shortages.
Athorbei said lack of refineries made it difficult for his ministry to buy fuel, prompting him to travel to neigbouring Kenya to negotiate with companies to deliver fuel. However, this has still not been enough to satisfy demand as Kenya has its own fuel shortages.
“They can only sell a limited quantity of fuel because they are also facing fuel shortage. So this resulted to irregular supply of electricity of power in Juba and other town in South Sudan”, he said.
The government had signed a deal with a company called Vitol to supply South Sudan with oil. However, as Vitol were to be paid in South Sudan’s unrefined crude oil the deal has not gone ahead due the halt in production.
The minister also revealed that South Sudan’s finance ministry had not been paying fuel suppliers since December 2011. Athorbei said that for the three months he has been borrowing fuel in order to keep "electricity running for the vital institutions". But this was becoming difficult, he said.
The minister warned the public that their could be a blackout in the coming days. Hospitals and other essential buildings would be prioritised he said.
He said looking to import fuel from Ethiopia in order to supply eastern South Sudan including Malakal, Kapoeta, Torit, Bor .
Ethiopian has agreed to sell South Sudan electricity produced from its dam projects on the condition that the world’s youngest nation builds power lines to connect to Ethiopia’s grid.
Athorbei said he had approached some Chinese companies to build the pipelines. He said he had received assurances that they would provide South Sudan loans for the project.
"If I succeeded that will be the only hope. Maybe in about one and half years we shall have the whole of eastern part of South Sudan electrified”, he said.