Saturday 15 June 2013

South Sudan denies involvement in Abyei pipeline explosion.

A pipeline carrying oil from the Diffra Oil Field to the Red Sea was blown up at Abyei, on the border between South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan, on Wednesday 12 June 2013. The Sudanese Government has blamed rebel groups allied to South Sudan for the blast, but the South Sudanese Government, which relies on income from oil shipped via pipelines in Sudan for around 98% of its income, has denied involvement.

Burning pipeline in Abyei. EPI/The Voice of Russia.

South Sudan gained independence from the Republic of Sudan on 9 July 2012, following a decades long civil war. However relations between the countries remain extremely strained. Both countries are extremely poor, and reliant oil revenues for foreign income. South Sudan has about 75% of the oil reserves of the former combined territory, but is entirely dependent on pipelines running through the Republic of Sudan to export this oil. Revenue from South Sudanese oil shipped via the Republic is split 50:50 between the two nations, but South Sudan has been trying to negotiate a better deal since independence. 

In January 2012 South Sudan cut oil production in order to try to pressure the Republic into renegotiating the deal. The dispute proved disastrous to both nations, and oil flows were eventually resumed in April this year, without resolution of the dispute. South Sudan now says that it wishes to maintain oil flows, but the northern government remains suspicious of its motives.

The Republic of Sudan remains extremely politically unstable, with a numerous rebel groups operating within its territories, several provinces trying to claim independence from the central state, and disputed borders with both South Sudan and Egypt. Its government suspects South Sudan of arming several of these groups, and has in turn been accused of arming rebel groups in South Sudan, and other neighbouring nations. The border area around Abyei is particularly disputed, at least in part due to its rich oil reserves, and the South Sudanese Government claims the Sudanese Army is currently involved in an incursion into its territory 10 km south of Abyei. Many outside observers are warning the countries are close to war.

Map of the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan, showing oil fields, pipelines refineries and the disputed territory around Abyei. BBC.

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