INTERVIEW WITH EZEKIEL LOL GATKUOTH, MINISTER OF PETROLEUM, SOUTH SUDAN
South-Sudan’s oil belong to the people of South Sudan, it does not belong to the Governement
South Sudan assumed control of three-quarters of neighbouring Sudan's oil when it gained it’s independence in 2011. Although Oil production was reduced between 2013 and 2015 because of a domestic crisis, the government is now keen to get it back on track. To understand better the situation on the ground, I sat down with the Minister of Petroleum, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, to hear about his plans to achieve this.
54 ÉTATS: A first question regarding oil production. South Sudan is the youngest african country to revamp oil production. Your country used to produced Three hundred and fifty thousand barrels a day and now South Sudan is producing only One hundred and thirty thousand barrels a day. Almost five years after the crisis, how will you manage to take it back to its orginal production?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: For us, the Republic of South Sudan is actually the third largest producers in Africa. We used to produced 480 000 barrels a day. Currently, we are producing 139 000 barrels a day because of the crisis.
For us, now, because of the crisis, we have been really suffering from the low production. But we want to take it back to where it used to be: 480 barrels a day. And for that, we want to make it sure that we resume the production and formal Unity State.
Also, in the works where we are close, we are opening the map and we are going to produce more oil. This is where we are focusing on. Increase production by opening up wealth that are close, also do exploration.
54 ÉTATS: As you know South Sudan has a banded oil ressources, but a lack of infrastructure including rafineries, pipelines, and so on … So, your government have tried to build a pipeline connecting Nairobi, to deliver the oil. Firstly, how is this program progressing so far ? And secondly, Did you still use the pipelines that is going to Sudan ?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Well, our plan is that we will continue to maintain transporting our oil through Sudan because it is very important for us to continue using the pipelines that is going through Sudan. Now, this is acculate is going to be the Northern part of South Sudan, the oil that is being produced there, we will transport them through Sudan.
Then now, we having the Southern part of South Sudan, that is also an oil there. And this is the area were we will create alternatives pipelines ; so then we can connect this with Kenya and Uganda.
54 ÉTATS: Are you paying them for this assistance through an agreement, for commercial fees ?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Of course, we are paying transportation fee, transit fee, processing fee. Also, we have something call Financial Transitional Arrangement Fee. We are paying them for this. It is an assistance because when we were leaving in 2011, we became an independant country, we took 75% of oil from Sudan and then we have realized this has created an economic choc to the Economy of the Republic of Sudan. And then we acculate them with a payment of 3 billions of dollars.
54 ÉTATS: Is there new discoveries in the country ?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Yes, there are new discoveries: bloc B3. I have awarded this bloc to a Nigerian company called Oriental Energy Resources. Oriental currently has three projects in the offshore Nigerian Oil and Gas industry which include OML 115, Ebok Field (OML 67) and the Okwok Field (OML 67); all in various stages of appraisal and/or development.
We are discussing with Total so that they can take bloc B1 and B2 together with Tullow Oil and the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC). So this 3 companies, that’s why I’am here in Paris, to discuss with them and particularly with Total on how we can move forward and have an agreement so that they can explore.
54 ÉTATS: And what about Trasfigura?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Of course, Trasfigura are lifting the crude oil. They are buying the crude from us.
54 ÉTATS: President Salva Kiir and his First Vice President Taban Deng Gai are pushing hard for competition on crude oil removals. They argue that their critical financial situation requires new partnerships that can provide better revenues to the State. A word on that?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Yes, of course and that’s why we are focusing on increasing the production. Because when you increase the production, you bring more money to the country. Because currently, we have 130 000 barrels a day and we want to make it to 480 000 barrels a day. Then we acculate more money to te country. And now, if we have Total, Tullow Oil, and KUFPEC producing bloc B1 and B2, we have more money being broad by increasing production of oil. President General Salva Kiir is asking me to focus on making sure that the Economy is being revitalized.
54 ÉTATS: So you already signed the contract with Total?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: We have not yet signed but we are discussing and looking to sign the contract.
54 ÉTATS: Now about the Peace Process in South-Sudan and the Intergovernmental Authority on development, and Revitalization Discussions. The mediation program set up in Addis Ababa since February 5 to arbitrate violence in South Sudan is taking place in a strange atmosphere of unreality.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Well, for us, we are engaged in Addis. We want to bring peace to our country. It is us South Sudanese who will bring peace to the country. It is not the IGAD, it is not the International Comnunity. There are supporting us. What my president is doing so far, President Salva Kiir, is launching a national dialogue and dialogue that can bring all of us together and we discuss and we bring peace. Now, what the IGAD is doing is complementing what we are doing as a country. So far, we are engaging with the oppositions to come back, be part of the implementation of the agreement and so that we implement the agreement with transition and we acculate go for democratic election in two and half year or three years.
For us, we want to make sure that the Presidency: president Salva Kiir, and First Vice President Taban Deng Gai and Vice president James Wani Igga remain in the transition and then we create a layer for assistance to the President and then the conselors: the Ministers and then we expends, we expends the Parlement. So that every body is board and board.
Riek Machar can wait for the transition and when the process of the transition is finished. He can come and run for elections.
If Riek Machar is going to come now, it will be another war !
54 ÉTATS: Well, he should be realeased first before coming!
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Well, the region has made a decision. He has to wait. He is not even arrested. He is in South Africa and has to wait until the election is organised. And if he want to come and compete, so he can come and compete.
54 ÉTATS: This is your opinion. A last word ?
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: Well, thank you very much for having me here as a Minister of Petroleum of the Republic of South Sudan. The Economy of the Republic of South Sudan is better than last year, the oil pricing is acculate now going up, we are increasing the production, we are making sure that we explore, explore and explore so that we can have more oil and more oil is more money and more money, more services that we can deliver to the people of South Sudan. This oil belong to the people of South Sudan, it does not belong to the governement.