Expert urges South Sudan rebels to shun abduction of aid workers

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JUBA — A security expert on Thursday warned South Sudan rebels led by their leader Riek Machar risk losing credibility globally over abduction of foreign oil workers.

Assistant professor of Political Science at Juba University Jacob Chol told Xinhua in Juba that the successive abduction and release in March of two Indian oil workers working with the Dar petroleum consortium could easily irk influential countries like China and India with large stakes in the war-torn country’s nascent oil industry.

“That is a way of provoking the countries that are producing oil in the country, but that does not weaken the government. Instead it will make countries like China and India to view the rebels as spoilers,” Chol revealed.

“It’s a sort of new behavior where rebels are trying to provoke oil workers, create fear and limit their movement and operations,” he added.

The rebel spokesman Col. William Deng had earlier told Xinhua that they were determined to stop oil production for fear that the government was using oil revenues to purchase military supplies to carry out offensives against them, hence prolonging the more three years of conflict.

Chol disclosed that these developments were a consequence of failure to diversify the economy which is heavily reliant 98 percent on oil revenues to finance the fiscal budget.

“If you depend on one commodity and you are affected you will not have a lifeline. Oil is the only resource right now available to generate revenue since agriculture and farming are impossible due to fighting,” he said.

Assistant Professor of Economics at Upper Nile University James Alic told Xinhua the situation will be exacerbated if abductions continued amid economic hardship caused by conflict curtailing oil production.

“Let’s hope it will not be rampant but if it (abduction) continues then that will be negative for the already bad economic situation,” Alic said.

Conflict since outbreak in December 2013, forced foreign oil workers to be evacuated, oil infrastructure damaged causing oil production to decline from over 350,000 barrels a day (bpd) to less than 130,000 bpd.

South Sudan authorities have beefed security around the oil fields in the northern Upper Nile and Unity states to prevent more abductions of oil workers as they are keen to increase oil output to help cushion the weak economy.

“Oil workers abduction has made government to incur huge costs of maintaining security and personnel at the oil fields,” Chol said.

© Alleastafrica and Xinhua

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