July 25, 2012 (BENTIU) – Public transportation costs in Unity State are increasing every month since South Sudan halted oil production in January in a row with Khartoum over the payment of oil transit fees.
- Passengers waiting for the bus to depart from Bentiu town to Leer county, July 25, 2012 (Bonifacio Taban/ST)
Citizens throughout the state are complaining about extortionate ticket prices. Payinjiar, Mayom, Leer and Parieng are now among the most expensive destinations.
Passenger Samuel Majak Gatwich bought a ticket to Leer for 60 SSP (US$14) but was charged 100 SSP (US$23) to transport a small generator and a single bag.
The ticket price was previously 15 SSP to 20 SSP before the oil row began.
The pipeline transports landlocked South Sudan’s oil to the coast, passes thought its northern neighbour. In a dispute over the payment of fees to use the north Sudanese oil infrastructure, Juba halted production.
After this move other issues unresolved since the signing of the agreement which ended Sudanese civil war in 2005 culminated in a return to military conflict between the two countries in March. Since then a series of talks between the two nations have been hosted in Addis Ababa, with recent signs that a resolution may be found.
- A toyota pick up land cruiser ready to take passengers from Bentiu bus station to Nhialdiu July 25, 2012 (Bonifacio Taban/ST)
However, there have been dire economic consequences for both nations, which relied heavily upon oil revenues. This has led both nations to implement austerity measures, which have acted as a catalyst to the current protests in Sudan.
In Unity, previously one of South Sudan’s biggest oil-producing states, a increase in the availability of black market fuel has led to fluctuating oil prices which has led to bus owners increasing ticket prices.
Gatwich called for local authorities to discuss the matter with the bus owners in order to find a reasonable solution, particularly in light of the need for many farmers to return to their land in rural areas after coming to the towns to sell their wares.
Bus driver Hamed Abdallah Mohamed said he previously drove passengers from Leer to the state capital, Benitu, but the prevalence of checkpoints along the route, at which payment is required, made it prohibitively expensive.
In Unity market 20 litres of fuel previously cost 180 SSP (US$41). It has now risen to 300 SSP (US$68).