KHARTOUM: Sudan expressed fears Friday over the fate of vital oil flows as fighting between rival army factions spread in neighboring South Sudan.
Sudan’s cash-starved economy is to receive an estimated $1.5 billion in fees from South Sudan next year for moving crude through northern pipelines for export.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman expressed concern that the South’s oil fields would become victims of the fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those of his former vice president, Riek Machar.
“Definitely one of the targets of the two powers will [be to] try to take over the oil fields,” perhaps as a way to improve their bargaining position, Osman said.
“It’s a struggle for wealth and power,” he added.
At least five South Sudanese workers were killed late Wednesday after unidentified attackers stormed their compound, operated by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co., a senior executive with the firm said.
But Osman said “so far, there is no effect” on oil flows into Sudan.
“We are very anxious about what is going on in the South. This will affect all the neighboring countries. In Sudan, we are going to suffer even more than the others.”
He also expressed fears about an influx of refugees and weapons.
The South became independent from Sudan less than three years ago under a 2005 peace deal that ended 23 years of civil war.
Sudan itself is grappling with tribal and rebel violence in its Darfur region, as well as insurgencies in the Kordofan region and Blue Nile state.
The United Nations said Monday that almost 2 million people were displaced in Darfur while, countrywide, 6.1 million were in need of humanitarian assistance.
“We have already some problems in our own country,” Osman said, and the Southern violence threatens to make things worse.
“We’ll have refugees,” Osman said, although there has not yet been any major influx over the 2,000-kilometer frontier.
“The availability of weapons will be more,” he said.
The U.N. said incidents of fighting or civil unrest, which began a week ago in the South’s capital, Juba, had now spread to 14 separate areas in South Sudan.
“The worst scenario for us is this war flares in other areas and extends to the whole of the South, and this will have an impact on Sudan,” Osman said.
Diplomats agreed that Sudan was had reasons to be concerned about the instability in its southern neighbor.
“I think this potentially could be very threatening to the stability of Sudan,” one foreign diplomat said, asking for anonymity.