… 400,000 estimated deaths, widespread famine, and sexual violence
How far would international oil companies go to make sure they secure the billions of dollars their shareholders are cashing in for? The people of the world’s youngest country, the Republic of South Sudan, know all too well. The East African nation has been in a state of civil war for six years; a deadly power struggle that the United Nations Human Rights Council says is fueled by oil money.
One report from The New York Times places the estimated deaths of the 11 million-person population at nearly 400,000, with more 1.75 million people being displaced, and hundreds of thousands becoming refugees.
The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in a statement earlier this year that it is outraged by reports of thousands of civilians forcibly displaced, following a scorched earth policy in which the parties to the conflict are attacking villages, torching homes, killing civilians, raping women and girls, and leaving many in a state of famine.
With some of the largest reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Sudan’s economy is practically entirely funded by oil extraction – so the warring sides have virtually nowhere else to turn if they want to substantially sustain their efforts.
Faced by the pressure to remove themselves from complicity with war and other crimes, some oil companies pulled out of the young African country, with most of the country’s rigs being shut down or destroyed during the war.
Few have doubled down on their operations and partnerships with the state-owned Nilepet.
The UN stated that South Sudan National Security Services have expanded their involvement in the oil sector, taking over the state owned Nile Petroleum Oil Company (Nilepet), whose operations have been characterised by a lack of transparency and independent oversight.
The UN stated with certainty that the company has diverted money, which should be shared with the country’s states into the coffers of the elites in government.
In addition to indirectly funding the war through their operations in South Sudan, actor and activist, George Clooney, who is at the helm of a watchdog group called Sentry, said that the oil companies are “proactively participating in the destruction”.
The watchdog has made damning findings about oil companies’ involvement in the civil war. Released in September, the report states that Dar Petroleum, a consortium of oil companies, provides direct support to deadly militias.
The consortium also “has paid for government officials to live lavishly while the rest of the population suffers the consequences of a brutal civil war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives,” Clooney said.
Dar Petroleum refused to respond to the report, and South Sudan’s Oil Minister called the report a misunderstanding of the oil companies’ operations in the country, appearing to cast the oil companies as neutral bystanders.
The people of the Republic of South Sudan have been forced to endure six years of civil war between their Government and the Opposition movement that controls large swathes of the country’s land.
Presently, the sides have called for and agreed to yet another ceasefire, in an attempt to form a unity government for the country.
But a postponement of their deadline for the formation of the unity government and still increasing tension worries the international community that this ceasefire may not last.
Throughout all the turmoil, oil companies continue to pump oil.
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