South Sudan’s military said its forces are in control of the oil fields in Unity and Upper Nile States, contrary to rebel claims that they captured the fields after heavy fighting.
Rebel spokesman James Gatdet Dak said Friday the rebels had taken control of the two oil fields as part of a plan to close down production in the country’s two remaining oil-producing states.
But army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer said the rebels are engaged in disseminating false and misleading information.
“The rebels from the very beginning have a target of sabotaging or destroying or occupying the oil fields both in Unity State and Upper Nile. In Upper Nile, they have failed in their attempt to advance toward the oil fields of Paloch; they were frustrated in Melut when they were destroyed and defeated and in Malakal,” he said.
Aguer said government forces also defeated the rebels in Unity State where the rebels have been trying to get a hold on Panyigiat.
“They were defeated in Panyigiat and SPLM forces are in control of Panyigiat. So, the rebels’ claim is false, misleading information,” he said.
Aguer said, since the beginning of the civil war more than 17 months ago, oil exploration in Unity State had stopped because of rebel activities.
“The government is not using the oil fields in Unity State because the rebels have killed, from the very beginning, engineers and some workers that forced the companies to pull out of Unity State. That was part of the plan of the rebels to destroy towns and oil installations. But, the oil fields in Upper Nile are operational, and the rebels have been trying to sabotage it, but they have failed,” Aguer said.
He repeated government claims that the rebels have offices in Khartoum and are receiving arms and ammunition from the Sudanese government, a claim Khartoum has denied.
“Khartoum will never convince anybody because the rebels of Riek Machar have offices in Khartoum, they are getting their training there, and [since] the recent attacks in Upper Nile, the rebels got their supplies from the north. It’s a reality, not a claim. We have a lot of evidence of Khartoum supplying ammunition and weapons in areas that are controlled by the rebels,” Aguer said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Ateny Wek Ateny, has told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program that the on-and-off again talks between the government and rebels are expected to resume sometime this week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The last round of talks ended early March this year without an agreement.