Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa confirmed on Wednesday that President Yoweri Museveni, his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a memorandum of understanding to build the pipelines during a joint meeting in Ugandan capital Kampala on Tuesday.
The planned pipelines, which the African authorities describe as crucial for unity in East Africa, will end South Sudan’s dependence on Sudan for its oil exports.
One of the pipelines will transfer South Sudan’s oil to the Kenyan port city of Lamu, while the other would stretch from Rwanda to Kenya’s second-largest city of Mombasa.
At the moment, South Sudan can export its oil only through Sudan. But there is occasional disruption in oil flow because of conflicts over pricing and security issues.
In January 2012, South Sudan stopped its oil production following tensions over pipeline fees and disputed territory.
In March, Sudan and South Sudan struck a deal to resume the flow of southern oil exports through pipelines in the north. The pipelines, which are South Sudan’s only route to international market, carry oil from the landlocked South through Sudan to a port on the Red Sea.
Two neighbors also agreed to withdraw their troops from contested border areas to ease tensions and facilitate the resumption of oil exports.
South Sudan seceded from the Republic of Sudan on July 9, 2011, after decades of conflict with Khartoum. The new oil-rich nation is one of the least-developed countries in the world with one in seven children dying before the age of five.