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Rebels Vow to Stop South Sudan Oil Production

Three foreign oil workers kidnapped by rebels in South Sudan smile as they arrive after being released at Khartoum Airport, Sudan, March 30, 2017.

The main rebel group in South Sudan is threatening to disrupt oil production in the country, a day after it released three foreign oil workers it kidnapped earlier in the month.

An official of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO) said the government is using oil revenue to purchase weapons and kill civilians.

“People in South Sudan are not receiving their money (from oil revenue). This money is going to their pocket (of government officials) and for buying arms for killing our people. If we have chance to stop the oil production, we will do it,” said Dak Duop Bichok, the head of the SPLM IO's committee for energy and mining

Oil workers released

Duop confirmed the rebel group has released three foreign oil workers it abducted in the Adar fields of oil-rich Upper Nile State earlier in March.

VOA's South Sudan In Focus obtained a letter dated March 28 ordering the release of two Indians, Muthu Vijaya Boopathy and Ayaz Hussein Jamali, who work with a Chinese-led consortium, and Ambrose Edward, a Pakistani employed by a South Sudanese company.

Duop said the three were released after officials from their countries spoke with rebel leader Riek Machar. He said the freed oil workers were flown to Khartoum via Addis Ababa on Thursday and taken to their countries' embassies in Khartoum.

Ransom demand denied

South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei said early this month the government received reports that rebel forces were demanding a $1 million ransom for the oil workers. He said South Sudan's Transitional Government of National Unity does not deal with what he called terrorists.

Duop denied his group demanded ransom for the oil engineers. “We didn't demand anything, we released them without any deal,” he told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.

Duop said the SPLM IO is not a terrorist group, but fights for the rights of South Sudanese.

Repeated warnings

At the same time, he said the SPLM IO has given repeated warnings to national and international oil companies to abandon the oil fields.

“You please, evacuate the place. The government is producing oil, and is getting money and is buying (arms),” he said.

South Sudan's Minister for Petroleum, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said early this month that his government has learned a lesson and will increase measures to protect oil workers in the area.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon

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