By Toby Collins
January 26, 2012 (LONDON) – South Sudanese rebels operating in oil-rich Unity state issued a statement on Wednesday threatening the proposed construction of an oil pipeline to Lamu on the Kenyan coast.
- Great Nile Petroleum Operating Corporation, Unity state, South Sudan, 2011 (Pulitzer)
The pipeline would offer South Sudan an alternative to the economic stranglehold it is currently held in by Khartoum.
Landlocked South Sudan is involved in an escalating dispute over the payment of transit fees for its oil, which is currently exported across the international border, in Port Sudan.
The South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) and the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) warn “any oil company” considering involvement in the construction of a pipeline to “stay away from Unity State and Upper Nile” because they “will never allow the construction of the new pipeline” because “the decision was taken without adherence to democratic principles.“
Negotiations between Juba and Khartoum, hosted by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel have thus far failed to find a resolution.
The statement describes the decision to shut the pipeline as “economic suicide”, suggesting that exports via Port Sudan should continue until the new pipeline is built.
These are reiterations of warnings given by the SSLA in December 2011 when the French oil company, Total proposed the adaptation of a pipeline planned to take Ugandan oil to the Kenyan coast, to accommodate South Sudanese oil.
No indication has yet been given on the economic feasibility or time-frame of the suggested pipeline.
South Sudan’s decision to close the current pipeline may have economically negative ramifications in the short-term, but as oil makes up 90 percent of South Sudan’s revenues and is its the greatest draw for foreign investors, a long-term solution is critical.
The stakes are high. Juba is threatening to “sue” Khartoum and has put the army no high alert.
The SSLA end by stating that “Within few days, fire will be burning everywhere in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei States “ and that “Salva Kiir will migrate to Kenya where he bought two villas for his family.” No evidence is given for either claim.
Juba accuses Khartoum of backing many of South Sudan’s rebellions.
The spokesperson for the South Sudanese army, Philip Aguer described the SSLA as a "northern mercenaries" after a string of attacks in Unity state during 2011.