Just two years after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, oil-rich South Sudan plunged into a civil war that is still raging today—a civil war that is allegedly funded by oil revenues.
Impoverished South Sudan is rich in natural resources and oil revenue is the country’s main hard currency export income—it’s not a leap to suggest that oil revenues are funding its side of the war, but one NGO is claiming that it is this very oil money that South Sudan’s leaders are using to get rich and terrorize civilians, according to documents reviewed by The Sentry, an investigative initiative co-founded by George Clooney.
“Little has been known about the financial machinery that makes South Sudan’s continuing war possible, but these documents appear to shed new light on how the country’s main revenue source—oil—is used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, and how a small clique continues to get richer while the majority of South Sudanese suffer or flee their homeland,” The Sentry said in the Fueling Atrocities: Oil and War in South Sudan report published on Monday.
South Sudan officials dismissed the report, with presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny telling Reuters that “The oil money did not even … buy a knife. It is being used for paying the salaries of the civil servants.”
South Sudan produces some 135,000 bpd of oil and hopes to double its oil production over the next 12 months, its Oil Minister Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said in December last year.
Last month, Lol Gatkuoth told the BBC that “80 percent of the country is peaceful” and that “you can even party during the night” in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan.
But according to documents reviewed by The Sentry, the picture in South Sudan is quite different. Funds from South Sudan’s state oil company Nile Petroleum Corporation (Nilepet), The Sentry claim, “helped fund militias responsible for horrific acts of violence. They also indicate that millions of dollars were paid to several companies partially owned by family members of top officials responsible for funding government-aligned militia or military commanders.”
In addition, “the documents appear to describe how the petroleum ministry provided support to these militias in the form of fuel, equipment, funds, food and supplies, and airtime for satellite phones,” The Sentry’s report said.