“Given the emerging environmental damages being witnessed at an unprecedented scale, oil production is beginning to be seen as a curse, not a blessing.”
By James Mayiik
October 5, 2020 (Thessherald)–This post is meant to clarify my position in the discussions carried out last Friday on Billy Luk’s live show. My position as a citizen of South Sudan is that the government of South Sudan needs to strictly enact the Petroleum Law (2012). The money allocated to the local oil producing communities by this law needs to be released honestly every time there is cargo sold. This law gives the oil producing communities certain percentages of every barrel sold.
It is well noted that petroleum production in South Sudan has not benefitted civilians of the local oil producing communities (HRW, 2003; Moro, 2009). Instead, given the emerging environmental damages being witnessed at an unprecedented scale, oil production is beginning to be seen as a curse, not a blessing.
I also stressed that the widespread ethnic violence and displacement in the oil producing regions is caused by our inability in the greater upper Nile to unite ourselves as equal victims of this pollution problem. There is a need for the Greater Upper Nile communities, especially the Nuer, Shilluk, and Dinka Padang to stop hostilities against each other over land issues. They are all South Sudanese, and every citizen has the right to settle anywhere.
What happened in 2013 and after was and still a big mistake. There is no one ethnic group which owns South Sudan. We are all equal. The oil investors, including the current government of the day, are taking advantage of our ethnic division in the Greater Upper Nile. Let us unite and demand what we deserve to help our citizens live better lives.
I appreciate Giernyang Herbil’s points that an external environmental cleaning company needs to be contracted and deployed in the oil producing communities so that consistent removal of oil spills is strictly maintained. I agree 100% with Herbil who also stressed that any revenue directed towards local communities must be spent on building systems of infrastructures such as water boreholes, reservoirs, purification agents, schools for children, and other civic education activities.
The biggest challenge, which needs to be discussed further in the next shows, is transfer of funding, stipulated by the petroleum management law, to each community where the oil is being mined.
In one policy brief published by the Sudd Institute (2013), it is argued that and I quote, “although transfers to Petroleum Producing States seem straightforward, the process for transferring funds to ‘communities’ is more ambiguous”(end of quote).
This was an old argument though. In fact, instead of embarking on this ambiguity, the transfer of anything to these communities disappeared altogether.
My last concern in this petroleum induced pollution is tribalism. Pollution is a common concern across our ethnicities of the Greater Upper Nile. It does not discriminate Dinka Padang, Shilluk, or Nuer. Addressing our growing grievances will need unity among our local communities in the oil-producing regions and form neutral civil society organizations which will be able to push for more progressive legislations. Progressive environmental legislations will protect our people.
Competition among us won’t do us any good, believe me. Either Dinka Padang, Shilluk, or Nuer will not do it alone and especially when the rural populations have prioritized bickering over traditional land rights.
Oil pollution in South Sudan is politically motivated whether directly or indirectly. As diverse communities in the Diaspora who have access to liberal media platforms, it is critically important that any engagements on this oil pollution issue needs us to put our politics in the center of discussions.
Some of the serious oil spills in the Greater Upper Nile, in Unity State for example, were caused through political sabotage during the civil war. This will help us clearly understand where the problem is, who is the problem, who is supposed to solve it, what is required to solve it, why it must be solved, and how to sustain such solutions going forward.
Our politics is the main reason why oil producing communities are not getting their financial allocations. Let us address our politics honestly so that we can approach the technical part of the needed solutions with a united front.
Finally, I want to let you all know that although I am not part of South Sudan’s current government, I have no personal grudges with anybody or the government in particular as some people seem to insinuate. I am just speaking up to inform and compel necessary actions, if any, to save life.