Is oil pollution the cause?

Baby with horrible malformations taken by South Sudanese government for testing abroad

The official hinted that oil residues could be the main cause of such cases, stressing that it must be proven scientifically so that oil companies can put an end to these problems.
The state minister noted that health problems reported in the state include premature births, miscarriages, skin allergies and congenital malformation among newborn children.
Previous studies have shown direct links between oil operations and groundwater contamination which could affect human and animal health.

https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/oil-ministry-takes-baby-born-with-congenital-malformation-for-medical-checks

Bad and worsening lack of compliance

Highly respected Sudd Institute’s criticisms of reporting by and accountability of South Sudan’s oil industry

Compliance with Petroleum Industry Transparency and Accountability Rules in South Sudan

Key statements:

“Despite the existence of strong petroleum transparency and accountability rules, compliance with them has worsened in the last three years. Only 26% of the information required by the laws on petroleum in South Sudan has been published in 2019 – compared to 42% in 2016. This seriously violates petroleum transparency and accountability rules and poses high corruption and reputational risks….We recommend the establishment of an independent institution…”

On the Sudd Institute:
“The Sudd Institute is an independent research organization that conducts and facilitates research and training to inform public policy and practice, to create opportunities for discussion and debate, and to improve analytical capacity in South Sudan. The Sudd Institute’s intention is to significantly improve the quality, impact, and accountability of local, national, and international policy and decision-making in South Sudan in order to promote a more peaceful, just and prosperous society.”

https://www.suddinstitute.org/publications/show/5d2dc1d59176e

Pressure mounts on Salva Kiir to immediately intervene on pollution in South Sudan

Pressure mounts on South Sudan’s president to take immediate action on oil pollution

by Joseph Oduha | We Are Witness
June 30, 2019

“The unabated pollution in the Upper Nile oil fields is gravely endangering the lives of thousands of people living there,” states Reec Malua-Akumric, the noted South Sudanese lawyer and human rights advocate. Mr. Malua-Akumric puts the blame for this ‘environmental and human rights catastrophe’ upon the country’s government – and specifically president Salva Kiir.

“The government has refused to take the needs of the environment into account when authorizing the exploration and pumping of oil – with all the attendant effects upon our people’s health and lives,” he says.

Malua-Akumric’s remarks are echoed by Pagarau Thiangkol Long, another environmental advocate. Long has issued a passionate plea to Kiir.

“Your Excellency, the extraction of oil has done great and intolerable harm to the people and the lands of South Sudan. Many of your ‘friends’ have actually turned out to be enemies of you and your country. These people have wreaked massive destruction upon our lands and their natural resources,” states Long.

“True peace will come to our country only when you put an end to the foreigners’ abusing our country and its people – and when you start believing in and implementing rule of law, transparency and accountability,” Long added. The “foreigners” he was referring to include Chinese and Malaysian oil companies (Chinese National Petroleum Company and Petronas).

30 years in jail for former South Sudanese petroleum minister?

Time for truth in South Sudan’s oil sector.
Sweeping criminal investigation launched of South Sudan’s former petroleum minister

By Joseph Oduha | We Are Witness
June 30, 2019

Conspiracy to defraud.” “Bribery.” “Corruption.” “Abuse of office”.

The list of the charges levied against Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol by the government of South Sudan is long and grave.

Making the charges even more important and interesting is who Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol is – or was.

He was South Sudan’s minister of petroleum and mining, until being sacked on June 12th.

As such, Lol was the government’s cheerleader for a huge upswing of oil production. Lol’s rosy predictions were the staple of business conferences and journals, which repeated and printed them – and uncritically treated them as being the gospel truth. These “experts” were fond of hailing Lol to be the ‘savior’ of the country’s oil industry.

Rather than experiencing a major upswing, the industry is actually mired in the doldrums of producing 180,000 barrels a day. And rather than being the industry’s savior, Lol turns out to have been its bagman – its “Chief Corruption Officer” in the words of a blog.

According to the reports flooding South Sudanese media, Lol’s main job was apportioning the revenues stemming from the consortia running the industry among accounts owned by his family and by senior members of his government – including president Salva Kiir.

Lol’s main ‘crime’ is believed to have been expropriating an overly-large share of the proceeds arising from South Sudan’s pre-sales oil contracts – highly disadvantageous ones – with Chinese and other foreign investors.

These contracts are now being investigated by the parliamentary committee convened on June 21 by Kiir.

Headed by Dr Elia Lomoro, South Sudan’s cabinet affairs minister, the seven-member committee is to take a searching look at the pre-sale’s processes, incomes, payments and taxes.

“Our goal is unearth the truth of what is actually happening in the oil sector,” stated one of the committee’s members in an interview with forsouthsudan.com.

Lol is being joined by a number of other senior petroleum ministry officials in being investigated. Also being probed are the oil companies, reports Ateny Wek Ateny, spokesperson for president Kiir. Expected next week, the committee’s findings could form the basis for criminal charges that could lead to Lol’s being sent to jail for up to 30 years.

South Sudan activists question government’s promise to end oil pollution

By Joseph Oduha 
June 25, 2019

The government of South Sudan recently made a sweeping commitment: to put an end  to oil pollution in the country – with this especially applying to the areas in and around the oil fields in the north. 

Keleuel Agok, an exiled member of the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders association, has joined the growing ranks of those casting doubt upon the government’s willingness to live up to this commitment. 

Agok pointed out that the government has a track record of making – and then breaking – such commitments.

“The government has long had proof of the widespread contamination of South Sudan’s environment by oil companies – and of this contamination’s effects upon humans, their animals and habitats. Despite this overwhelmingly strong evidence, the government has failed to take the action required to put an end to this environmental nightmare. This failure has condemned the people of South Sudan to living with this contamination’s effects: loss of their health and homes and livelihoods,” Agok states in an exclusive interview with foursouthsdan.com. 

The latest of these commitments was made by Agow Daniel, who was recently named South Sudan’s minister of petroleum and mining.

“The new minister’s promise will probably turn out to be as empty as those voiced by his predecessors. The reason why: the government’s only interest is milking the country out of all of its money,” stated Agok, who concluded by issuing the following challenge to the government:

‘Push the companies operating in the oil fields to provide the medical treatment, compensation and remediation required to improve lives.’

In his interview with forsouthsudan.com, Agok reiterated his support of the plea voiced by South Sudan’s human rights defenders in the East African Court of Justice. 

“Should the South Sudan government set forth its refusal to compensate the affected communities,  then human rights defenders in the country should sue the government of South Sudan in regional and international courts,” Agok added. 

John Pen, another leading member of the human rights association, views the cause of the government’s failure to save the environment and people to be a structural one.

“Our new minister has good intentions. He lacks the power to realize them. What is needed is a central institution with the authority to force oil companies to live up to their proprietary and international environmental standards.”

Pen views the Chinese – and specifically China National Petroleum corporation – as being the root of all evils in South Sudan.

“The Chinese are crooked and are laws unto themselves. President Salva Kiir worships them. And as long as this is the case, there will be improvement in South Sudan’s environment and society,” Pen concludes.  

Edit in charge: Terry Swartzberg