By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
January 23, 2012 (BENTIU) - A large group of protesters took to the streets of Bentui, the capital of South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity State in support of the governments decision to stop exporting oil through north Sudan as the dispute between Juba and Khartoum shows no signs of abating.
South Sudan announced it was shutting down its oil production on Friday and on Monday the new country’s President accused north Sudan of stealing seizing $815 million worth of its crude oil.
Khartoum, however, says it has seized and re-diverted southern oil because the Juba has failed to pay fees. South Sudan denies this and has announced it build a new pipeline to Kenya to end its reliance on Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
Since South Sudan seceded just over six months ago the former civil war foes have not been able to agree a fee for landlocked nation to use northern infrastructure to export its oil.
African Union mediated talks between Juba and Khartoum that were supposed to have reconvened over the weekend have borne little fruit.
Juba expects that the process of stopping the production of its daily output, of 350,000 barrels a day, will take up to two weeks. The South claims Khartoum is stealing 120,000 barrels per day using a tie-in pipeline.
Authorities Unity state told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that they agree with the decision of the central government and have instructed security personal in the oil fields to stop oil entering the north-bound pipeline
Gideon Gatpan Thaor, State Minister of Information and Communication, confirmed that his government is fully committed to shut down the oil supply.
Every institution and was happy with the decision he said.
Stephen Mading Chan, who joined the demonstration backing the move to close down production said that South Sudan should stop all ties with north Sudan as the had "cheated" South Sudan.
“I’m here today by supporting the degree being issued by the president in the council of Minister in the national level of shutting down the oil production in South Sudan this is why I’m here with my people."
When South Sudan broke away from the north in July 2011 it took with it 75% of Sudan’s oil production. This has had a serious affect on Sudan’s economy with inflation and food price rises triggering small level protests in Khartoum in recent months.
China being the main buyer of southern crude has tried to bring the side together but has so far failed.
Khartoum wants Juba to pay $1 billion in fees plus $36 dollars for every barrel exported through its territory. Figures that South Sudan refuse to accept.
Sudan also wants Juba to take on part of the country’s international debts.
On Friday the South Sudanese Minister of Justice, John Luk Joak, warned companies that buy oil from Khartoum government belonging to South Sudan that they would face legal action.
In Juba, the South Sudan capital, there were also a series of peaceful processions in support of the second council of ministers January 20 decision to immediately halt all oil operations in the country.
A group of youth, women and students marched from the Juba-based Nyakuron Cultural Center, chanting pro-government slogans before submitting a memo addressed to the national assembly speaker, prior to the president’s speech.
Another similar procession, Sudan Tribune understands, is due to take place on Tuesday on South Sudan Warrap state, reportedly organised by youth and women to support the government’s move.
“All the peace loving youth, women and students from Warrap have decided to hold this peaceful demonstration to show our support for the national government over the decision to shut down oil production. This will enable the government in Khartoum to respect our resources,” Makur Ngong Dit, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) state secretary said by phone.
Additional reporting from Julius N. Uma in Juba.