The newly independent state of South Sudan is planning an oil pipeline to Lamu in Kenya and a second to Dijibouti to break an ‘oil blockade’ by Sudan, which has halted the oil exports that consist of 98% of South Sudan’s income according to Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary General Pagan Amum, who gave an interview to New Europe, where he discussed oil, dealing with China, the international community’s response to difficulties with Sudan and the verdict against Charles Taylor at the International Criminal Court.
Amum explained the current situation, “Unfortunately, the government of Sudan started a very hostile position by wanting to charge 36% for the transit of oil. International standard practice is to charge $1 per barrel. Secondly, the government decided to practice state piracy, by stealing and diverting our oil in transit through their country, making it impossible for out oil to reach the market. Thirdly they also imposed an embargo, blocking buyers’ ships from docking in Port Sudan to load the oil.”
The end result is “we are unable to export our oil through Sudan. There is too much risk and uncertainty, not just for ourselves, but also for our buyers. For all these reasons, Port Sudan is a risky transit area for access to the international markets.”
Claiming the Khartoum regime had “imposed an economic blockade” Amum, who is also the Chief Negotiator for the Juba administration said, “we have been forced to reroute our imports and trade through Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Previously we were receiving 90% of our imports through Sudan, now almost 100% through these three countries.” He added that he couldn’t see any resumption of economic activity with Khartoum “until they change their policy, an economic war on our nation.”
The South Sudan government is confident that the Lamu pipeline could be up and running within two years, and expect construction to take just 13 months and Amum stresses that much preparation work, including signing agreements with Kenya, has already been done.
However, as they estimate oil volumes from the south will increase, they believe that the second pipeline to Dijibouti would also be needed in future. It is a case of one too many pipelines is better than one too few.
China has been a major partner of Sudan, but the independence of the South has caused Beijing problems. Amum gives his prespective, “I think China is in a predicament. Their relations in Sudan started with the government in Khartoum and they started making investments with the understanding they had with Khartoum and began exploiting the resources, which in many ways went against the people of South Sudan. Now we are separate, China is slowly accepting the reality of the split.”
Amum added, “They also have to deal with the impression that China was an ally of Khartoum and an enemy of the South.” According to Amum, the solution is for China to split the China National Petroleum Corporation into two branches, one for each state and to draw closer to Juba, with “independent relations with Sudan and South Sudan.”
Amum is optimistic for his new nation, “We are happy that we are emerging, after a long line of colonial powers, in an era of globilisation, where humanity is going through deep, fundamental changes and a technological revolution and humanity is getting integrated through communication. Old powers are declining, new ones are rising. There are positive developments for humanity; we are closer to each other. ”
One aspect of this is the support from the international community. Amum says the EU is supportive, but could be more focused on achieving results, rather than “wasteful activities like too many workshops and reports being developed.” Specifically, he wants to see the EU to help South Sudan develop “our own nation building programme; that we own.”
Amum’s visit to Brussels came as the International Criminal Court handed out guilty verdicts to Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia.
“It is tragic that the processes that we are going through today, of statebuilding, that mistakes are being committed by leaders and it is a remarkable development that humanity has come together and rejected these abuses and instituted a court that reflects the higher values of our humanity. I just wonder if this court was established in the 17th Century, who would be going before it. But today, it was clearly a fair trial and a verdict has been passed.”
“President Bashir will be next. He has committed grave abuses and a jihad against South Sudan that cost a million lives. We have had to come to an agreement with him, but that does not absolve him. He is continuing to commit crimes, using racism and religious bigotry as tools.”
In response, the Juba based government is planning two new pipelines that will avoid Sudan. One will lead to Dijobouti, which is seen as problematic because of some mountainous terrain which presents a technical challenge, and the preferred option will head to Lamu. “It will cost us about $7 a barrel to transport our oil to the Kenyan coast and we will owning the pipeline.”
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