By Julius N. Uma
February 17, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s Justice Ministry has issued an international legal notice threatening consequences against potential buyers of oil it says was “stolen” by neighbouring Sudan, a government spokesperson told reporters on Friday.
- South Sudan’s Media Minister Barnaba Benjamin Marial (REUTERS)
Barnaba Benjamin Marial, South Sudan’s official spokesperson and information minister, said the notice was issued through the country’s international legal consultants after the ministry of petroleum and mining asked the justice ministry to track the country’s seized crude.
“As you know, when someone steals your property, there is usually a legal way to halt that process and what the government of South Sudan has done through its justice ministry is to issue an international legal notice saying its oil has been stolen and is now on the international market,” Marial told reporters in Juba, South Sudan’s capital.
South Sudan has suspended oil production in response to Khartoum’s sequestration of its oil in a bitter dispute over the fees to transport Southern oil via Sudan.
Talks between the two sides have been unsuccessful as the gap remained wide between the fees demanded by Khartoum and what the South is offering.
Khartoum has demanded $36 per every barrel passing through its pipelines, but Juba says it is not willing to pay more than $1 per barrel in accordance with what it says are international standards.
Marial said the government is prepared, in accordance with the international laws, to take legal actions against anyone found to have purchased its crude oil.
South Sudan on Thursday warned Chinese oil companies operating in the
country that they could face the possibility of expulsion, if it is proven that they are complicit in “stealing” the country’s oil.
The South Sudanese minister further revealed that an investigation committee would be formed to investigate whether oil companies have been collaborating with Sudan to confiscate oil belonging to South Sudan.
“These companies will face serious legal steps, once it’s proven through an investigation committee that these companies collaborate with Khartoum to confiscate oil,” he said.
In a related development, Marial said the council of ministers had given the finance minister “the green light” to take loans for development, including borrowing from other countries or financial institutions.
“Every country borrows money. If the United States and Britain can borrow money, then why can’t we also borrow?” he asked.
The oil dispute between Sudan and South Sudan means that both countries will have no access to the commodity which represents the lifeline to their economies. Oil revenues account for over 98% of South Sudan’s annual budget.
The two sides were evenly splitting daily oil proceeds of 500,000 barrels since 2005 and until South Sudan seceded to form an independent state in July last year, taking with it 75 percent of the production.