Guya Scopas Bethuel, Syracuse NY – The South Sudanese citizens may not have the power to question the usage of oil money in the country, but the international community has.
South Sudan isn’t an island. The moment it attained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a unanimous vote for succession, it has to abide by certain international instruments.
Last week, The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), through its appointed Panel of Experts on South Sudan asked for a detailed accountability on the country’s oil money.
Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC) President has until March 1 to provide bank details and other documentary evidence on the transfer of oil revenues to the South Sudanese people through their Central Bank from 2019 to 2021.
DPOC is the official contractor mainly owned by China, and Malaysia. It is a consortium of several international oil companies, including the China National Petroleum Corporation, a state-owned entity that has a 41 percent stake in the group; and Petronas, a company owned by the Malaysian government that has a 40 percent stake, according to Africa Oil and Power.
Africa oil and power tracks investment in the energy sector across the continent.
The government’s Nilepet also has a stake, and it is through it that financial transactions are made by DPOC.
This move by the UNSC therefore should be welcome by every citizen because it is within their right to know how their natural resources are utilized. If they are being intimidated to do so, somebody is doing it for them. At least they can put their ears on the ground and know how much money is being made and how it is used. The citizens can now decide what to do with the information.
Some people may question the significance of this move. After all, these companies have been sanctioned by the US government, but it does not seem to affect their business dealings. However, South Sudanese must own the solution to their problems but to do so they require the information, and this is a good opportunity. Do not rule out that some of these sanctions compounded pressure on Salva Kiir to go for peace with his rival Riek Machar.
South Sudan heavily relies on oil revenues with the non-oil revenues underdeveloped and under-utilized. However, this is a no-go zone for journalists, civil society groups including politicians like those in parliament. Asking for transparency on oil revenues may cause you trouble in South Sudan.
June 2020, the National Security Service (NSS) detained activist Monday Moses over a nationwide campaign duped “Gurus Wen” in Arabic meaning Where is the money?
This campaign was on major billboards around the city pushing for accountability on the oil money.
Unfortunately, as is normally the case, Moses was left to carry his cross alone. The Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) did raise his voice. He called for his release but many of the citizens did not rise to their civic responsibilities. It is this kind of laxity that the political elites in the country have utilized to carry out human rights violations with impunity.
In 2019, a report indicated these oil companies and government elites have used oil money to finance militias to commit atrocities during the war between soldiers loyal to Salva Kiir and those loyal to Dr. Riek Machar.
Apart from corruption and violence caused by the oil money, environmental degradation has been a serious issue among the communities around the oil fields, but nobody seems to care. Citizens can’t hold leaders both local and national to account.
South Sudan struggles with service delivery with no tarmac road network across the country except for the US-funded road linking the country to Uganda through Nimule.
There’s no electricity in the country, hospitals lack medicine, civil servants including the army have gone for months without salaries yet every month thousands of barrels of oil are sold. The oil underground is reported to have been pre-sold up to 2022. Billions of dollars have been given to South Sudan on loan. Why do you think is easy to loan the country such money? it is because the oil provides a guarantee.
South Sudanese may be struggling but not the political elites. They have made fortunes with their families living well outside the country.