In South Sudan border lands oil brings bombs, not blessings
Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:00am GMT
By Hereward Holland
BENTIU, South Sudan, April 26 (Reuters) - Despite a dozen years of oil
extraction in South Sudan's Unity state, the capital Bentiu has little to
show for it.
Donkeys drag carts bearing oil drums filled with water around the dusty,
litter-strewn streets and evenings hum with private electricity generators
and occasional gunfire.
"There's no benefit to Bentiu. We're still drinking water from the river,"
said David Biphal, sitting at tea stand near a scratched out picture of
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
A dusty town some 80 km (50 miles) from the contested Sudanese border,
Bentiu has, like much of South Sudan, never seen any development. Instead,
nine months after South Sudan separated from the rest of Sudan to form a new
country, the area is now seeing air strikes from Sudanese planes.
At least two people were killed on Monday when a bomb was dropped on a large
market near Bentiu, and 10 people have been killed by other air strikes in
the Bentiu area since April 14, South Sudan officials say.
Residents here say they have seen no benefit from oil because it all flows
north through Sudan.
"The North is taking all the petrol through the pipeline. We're still poor
and have no roads," said Biphal.
Since South Sudan split away from Sudan last July, the two have been at
loggerheads over how much Juba should pay to export its crude through
pipelines in Sudan. Oil talks have fallen apart and fighting erupted at the
disputed border three weeks ago, raising concern the conflict could spill
into all-out war.
For people in Bentiu, even before the latest flare-up, the prized resource
has not provided the most basic of necessities.
"I have never seen any benefits from the oil field," said Ruach Rueth,
straddling his donkey-drawn water cart.
Some critics of South Sudan's authorities blame corruption in the newly
independent capital Juba for the failure to develop towns like Bentiu. They
point out that the South Sudan regional government received tens of billions
of dollars in oil money under a pre-independence deal in place from 2006-11.
It is not a sentiment you will hear often here, where most people blame
Khartoum for their woes.
Some three-quarters of the two countries' combined oil reserves are located
in South Sudan, but the only ports are to the north. In January, after Sudan
seized a portion of the South's oil to compensate for what it called unpaid
transit fees, the Juba government shut down its 350,000-barrel per day
"Oil is a good thing, but our neighbour wants to grab everything. They don't
have oil in their country but they want to benefit from this oil," explains
John Jal who runs a market where sunlight through coke bottles filled with
petrol casts an amber glow.
OIL NOT AN INCENTIVE FOR PEACE
During the peace negotiations that ended their two-decade civil war, a 50-50
split of oil revenues provided an incentive for both Sudans to reach a peace
deal. Talks continued after southern secession, but the oil production
shutdown since January has left little cash to grease the wheels of peace.
"The structural interdependence of southern-based oil fields and
northern-based pipelines no longer binds the two into pragmatic
compromises," political risk firm Eurasia group said.
Without oil revenues to prop up their leadership, the two countries' border
war and diplomatic spat is an economic race to the bottom. Both currencies
are rapidly losing value, pushing up food and fuel prices.
Earlier this month South Sudan briefly captured the contested Heglig oil
field that provided nearly half of Sudan's 110,000 barrel-per-day oil
The hard black earth around South Sudan's Unity oil fields, half an hour's
drive north of Bentiu, is pocked by half a dozen metre-wide bomb-craters
from Sudanese Antonov bombers.
To try and circumvent the transit fee impasse, the Juba government has
mooted plans to build an alternative pipeline through Kenya or Djibouti.
But Sudan's comparative military strength, including unchallenged aerial
firepower, means it will remain a threat to the South's oil fields, making
the prospect of serious investment dubious without first finding peace.
"The idea of building and securing a pipeline while they are still engaged
in conflict is impractical," said Jonah Leff, Sudan project coordinator for
the Small Arms Survey.
"South Sudan's army doesn't have the air defense capabilities, such as
anti-aircraft guns and surface to air missiles to defend itself against
aerial attacks from the north," he said.
Even if a deal is found and the oil spigots turn back on, people in Bentiu
are sceptical whether their life will improve.
"This oil is a blessing from God," Jal said but added: "We don't benefit
from the oil fields in Unity state because the pipeline is going towards
Khartoum." (Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Peter Graff)
US draft warns Sudan, S.Sudan of possible sanctions
Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:47pm GMT
* Rice: UN council starts talks Thursday on draft
* Envoys: China, Russia reluctant to issue threats
* AU gives Sudan, South Sudan 3 months to reach deal
By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, April 26 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday
circulated to the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution that warns Sudan
and South Sudan of sanctions if they do not comply with African Union
demands to swiftly stop border clashes and resolve their many disputes.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters the Security
Council would begin discussing the draft resolution on Thursday and that it
would likely need at least a few days of talks among members before going to
The AU's Peace and Security Council on Tuesday urged both sides to cease
hostilities within 48 hours and to withdraw troops from disputed areas, and
warned it would issue its own binding rulings if they fail to strike deals
on a string of disputes within three months.
The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, reaffirms those demands and warns
Khartoum and Juba of "its determination, in the event that one or both of
the parties have not complied, to take appropriate additional measures under
Article 41 of the (U.N.) Charter."
Chapter 7 Article 41 of the U.N. Charter allows the council to impose
sanctions to enforce compliance with its decisions.
"The intention of the text was to provide swift and substantive support to
the decisions of the African Union in the form that the African Union
requested," Rice, president of the 15-nation Security Council for April,
The AU asked for the Security Council to pass a resolution making its
demands legally binding on both Sudan and South Sudan.
"There were some members who either need more time to get guidance from
their capitals or who are skeptical of the wisdom of going directly to a
resolution," Rice said. "This is extremely urgent."
Council diplomats said privately that China and Russia, which are usually
reluctant to impose sanctions on any nation, had expressed reluctance to
threaten the two Sudans with punitive measures. Beijing has traditionally
acted as Khartoum's protector on the Security Council.
KHARTOUM: DEADLINES NEED ADJUSTMENT
Khartoum's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told reporters that
any council resolution on the conflict should direct its threats at South
"We have been the victim during this last aggression," he said, adding that
any U.N. measures should be "directed to the culprit, to the aggressor, not
to the victim."
Osman added that the deadlines in the AU communique and the draft resolution
needed to be changed.
"The time frame contained in the communique needs to be adjusted because
it's very short to adhere to," he said.
Clashes along the ill-defined border between the former civil-war foes has
led to a standoff over the Heglig oil field after it was seized earlier this
month by troops from South Sudan, which declared independence last year.
The Security Council last week discussed possibly imposing sanctions on
Sudan and South Sudan if the violence did not stop.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said hostilities this week - after South
Sudan had said it would withdraw from Heglig - amounted to a declaration of
a war by his northern neighbor.
Distrust runs deep between the neighbors who are at loggerheads over the
position of their border, how much the landlocked south should pay to
transport its oil through Sudan, and the division of national debt, among
Both are poor countries - South Sudan is one of the poorest in the world -
and the dispute between them has already halted nearly all the oil
production that underpins both economies.
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Fri Apr 27 2012 - 06:46:45 EDT