Sunday, 14th October, 2007 E-mail article Print article
Dr. Samson Kwaje
The SPLM pulled out of the unity government, citing concerns over the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The New Vision’s Els De Temmerman and Milton Olupot interviewed the Minister of Information of South Sudan, Dr. Samson Kwaje, by tele-conference.
Q: You cited oil revenue sharing as one of the reasons for withdrawing your ministers from the national government. But Khartoum claims it is releasing about $160m every three months in oil revenues to the South?
A: The issue is not about remitting money. The issue is lack of transparency in the entire oil sector. Southern Sudanese are not involved in the production process or the marketing. We don’t know how much is being extracted. They don’t tell us the truth. According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), we are supposed to get 50% of the oil produced in South Sudan. Calculations two years ago in Naivasha established that we would be getting between $80m and $115m per month. At that time the price of oil was $35 to $37 per barrel. Right now it has gone beyond $70 per barrel. But the revenues we are getting range between $28m and $60m per month. Considering that two more oil fields were added, in Paluoch and Adar, we should be getting over $150m per month.
Q: So how is your share being determined?
A: They just tell us: this month production has fallen because the old oil fields are producing less than usual. The problem is that the government of South Sudan and the SPLM are not involved in the oil sector. We are not represented in the ministry of energy or the ministry of finance, where the calculations are done. We feel that there is cheating.
Q: Another outstanding issue is the North/South border demarcation. Khartoum claims that the border commission and the commission for the allocation of natural resources have been formed but that their work is hampered by the rains.
A: According to the agreement, the North/South border commission was supposed to finish its work between January 9 and July 9, 2005. The government of Khartoum has been dragging its feet. Even after the SPLA named its members, the commission was not formed until the end of 2005. And when the commission was formed, the ministry of finance did not want to fund it. There was no funding until early 2007, when they began the actual work. The Khartoum government is not interested in the demarcation of the border, because when the border is formed, most of the oil now called northern Sudan oil is actually in South Sudan. The delay is not because of the rain. It is because they don’t want the commission to finish its work.
Q: What about the idea of bringing in British experts to demarcate the border?
A: For the North/South demarcation, it is the SPLM and the Government of Sudan to determine the borders, but they are free to engage national or international experts. So far, Khartoum has refused to bring in experts, claiming we are capable of doing it ourselves. For the Abyei boundary commission, five international experts and five members from the SPLM and the Sudan government each were appointed.
They produced their report. But the Khartoum government rejected its findings. Up to now, the Abyei Protocol has not been implemented because Khartoum rejected the experts’ report and subsequently failed to set up an administration in Abyei.
Q: You claim that the North has not withdrawn all its troops from the South, as agreed in the CPA. But Khartoum, in turn, claims the SPLA has not withdrawn all its troops either.
A: Khartoum has not yet withdrawn its troops from Unity State and Upper Nile. These are states where oil is being produced. They still have 16,000 troops in those two states. This is a clear violation of the CPA, which said that all troops should have been withdrawn by July 9, 2007. Our information is that instead of withdrawing, they are deploying more troops in those areas. As for us, we have withdrawn all our troops from the Nuba Mountains and the eastern Front. We are left with less than 50 troops in a place called Kurmuk in Blue Nile who are guarding our heavy arms. They have not been able to cross because of the rains, which have made the roads impassable. We are waiting for the floods to go down so that we can drive our tanks out of the area.
Q: One of the demands on the list handed to the Sudan President was the reshuffle of ministerial posts. What is the problem?
A: The government of unity is composed as follows: 52% the National Congress Party, the party of President Bashir, 28% SPLM, and the rest from other northern political parties. There are 30 cabinet ministers, 34 state ministers and a number of advisors. Out of that, we have eight cabinet ministers, 10 state ministers and two advisors. According to the agreement, these are nominated by the chairman of the SPLA, with the recommendation of the party, and given to President Bashir for appointment. Each party has a right to replace its members. Three months ago, the President of South Sudan, who is the chairman of the SPLM, sent a letter to reshuffle some of its ministers. He appointed new ones and reassigned others. But President Bashir has refused to implement it. Yet, according to the agreement, it is not a prerogative of the President to refuse a recommendation of any party that wants to reshuffle it members. This is again a clear violation of the CPA.
Q: What is the way forward?
A: We are still in negotiations. We have sent a high level negotiating team to Khartoum to present our complaints to the government of national unity. The SPLA is not going to start a war. We are just expressing our disappointment in the non-implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Q: Is this going to affect the peace talks you are brokering between the LRA and the Government of Uganda?
A: It is not going to affect the Juba peace talks in any way because this is an initiative of the government of South Sudan, which is functioning normally. We are only suspending our participation in the government of national unity.
Q: Should Ugandan businessmen in South Sudan be worried?
A: Not at all. South Sudan is normal. There is no war. We are only handling our problems with the Khartoum government, not at the level of the government of South Sudan.