By Ngor Arol Garang
South Sudan said on Sunday that it is taking the government of neighboring north Sudan to court over what Juba describes as the “stealing” of its oil.
Stephen Dhieu Dau, the country’s oil minister said in an interview with Sudan Tribune that his ministry has filed a lawsuit against Khartoum in “specialised international tribunals.”
“We are not leaving it just like that. The Sudanese government must return all they have stolen otherwise we are taking them to court”, minister Dau said without elaborate on which tribunals.
Minister Dau said that in December Khartoum started diverting more than 120,000 barrels per day of oil pumped from the new nation, which took with it 75% of Sudan’s oil reserves when it became independent in July 2011.
The two sides have failed to reach a new deal over transit fees, with north Sudan demanding $36 for every barrel that passes through northern infrastructure as well as $1 billion in unpaid fees. Sudan also wants South Sudan to share part of its international debt.
Sudan’s government has said it is keeping the oil in lieu of pipeline transit fees it says are owed by landlocked South Sudan.
Juba on Friday announced it was stopping all oil production until its oil was returned and a “fair” fee was agreed.
Oil constitutes 98% of revenues in South Sudan, but officials say it is better keep it under the ground and sell it in the future, instead of allowing Khartoum to steal it from them.
The new nation accused Khartoum of preventing ships from entering to load entitlements belonging to South Sudan and confiscating what has been loaded onto ships.
Juba claims that Khartoum has stolen $350 million worth of its oil and prevented over $400 million of it from leaving Port Sudan.
“We have starting looking for alternative route for exporting the oil after we have reached a deadlock with Sudan, which is exaggerating in the oil transit fees,” South Sudan’s oil minister Dau said on Sunday.
“We have already started discussions about construction of a pipeline through eastern Africa, via Kenya. We expect the pipeline to be completed in 10 months. We will also begin immediately the construction of a refinery in South Sudan,” he added.
He further disclosed that the international oil companies operating and producing oil in South Sudan are the ones that would construct the pipeline and the refinery, noting that “we do not have any problem with the companies currently operating in the south.”
Sudan and South Sudan are negotiating in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, under the mediation of the African Union, to reach an agreement over oil and other issues.
But the talks have floundered as South Sudan insists that Khartoum returns the confiscated oil and the latter said it won’t stop taking its “right.”
South Sudan’s government says Sudan has embarked on shipping amounts of South Sudan’s oil and selling it for its own profit, while Sudan says it was deducting the transit fees in form of material oil.