The leadership in South Sudan is using oil revenues from Nile Petroleum Corporation – NilePet, the national Oil & Gas Corporation of South Sudan to fuel the ongoing conflict, a new investigative report by Global Witness indicates.
The report titled Capture on the Nile shows that the state-owned oil company has fallen under the direct control of President Salva Kiir and his inner circle, and is being used to funnel millions in oil revenues to the country’s brutal security services and ethnic militias, with limited oversight and accountability.
“While South Sudan’s population continues to suffer a senseless war and economic crisis of their leaders’ making, Nilepet is failing its true constituents, serving instead, the interests of a narrow canal, and being used to prolong the brutal conflict,” Michael Gibb, a campaign leader for Conflict Resources at Global Witness said.
The report draws on secret documents and first-hand testimony to detail the means by which one of South Sudan’s most significant economic institutions has been co-opted to serve the personal aims of President Salva Kiir.
In one of the documents, the Managing Director of the Nilepet received a letter requesting a payment of over USD 1.5 million, for expenses incurred by South Sudan’s security services. The letter signed by the then Minister of Petroleum and Mining Stephen Dhieu Dau also made reference to an earlier communication by Lt. Gen. Akol Koor Kuc, the Director General of South Sudan’s Internal Security Bureau (ISB), a division of the feared and powerful National Security Services (NSS).
The letter was accompanied by an itemized list which includes hundreds of thousands of US Dollars for transportation, accommodation, and food for ISB personnel and South Sudanese army (SPLA) troops deployed “in and around the oilfields,” including the conflict areas of Wau, Paloch, and Malakal, in Upper Nile State.
The bill also includes over USD 900,000 for vehicles taken by the SPLA in the same areas, though supposedly during earlier operations in 2013/14. A few months before the letter was sent, a fresh military offensive had engulfed Upper Nile.
The report alleges that Nilepet appears to have become the vehicle of choice for connected elites wishing to evade scrutiny of financial transactions worth millions, linking the company directly to arms transfers and the patronage system at the heart of the conflict.
It adds that Nilepet’s role in bankrolling South Sudan’s security services and conflict not only takes it well beyond its intended role as a commercial oil company but has significant consequences for democratic and civilian oversight of South Sudan’s security.
“This is not the function Nilepet was meant to serve. But like many of South Sudan’s institutions – like South Sudan itself – it has been captured by powerful elites that have enlisted it in service of their own aims, rather than those of the South Sudanese people,” The report reads.
It says Nilepet’s successful capture has made it a critical component of the war economy. As a private company, Nilepet is able to operate in near total secrecy.