Ignored or deliberately overlooked situation: The Case of Ruweng and its environmental pollution
By Juol Nhomngek Gec,
the SPLM-IO Lakes State news Desk, Juba.
Sep 17, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — As we are at face to face with General Dollar and its battlion, which has already defeated the Government and heading towards capturing the stronghold of South Sudanese pounds, other problems facing our citizens are being ignored or the attention is shifting away from them to glaring emerging financial crisis.
As I write this Article, the exchange rate is $1 ~SSP 500. and it is likely to even rise higher and higher in the next few days. The dollar rate may go beyond the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prediction.
The IMF recently predicted that the dollar rate might rise to SSP 750 per a dollar in this year but with the Government of South Sudan accepting defeat, the dollar rate may reach SSP 1000 per a dollar.
As a result, the prices of commodities in the market are also expected to proportionally or disproportionately rise at the equal rate.
In addition, the people should expect hard times ahead with run away or Hyperinflation. The little value of South Sudanese Pounds we have now will be completely eroded , as the prices of all goods in the market will further increase.
With increased stress on economy, South Sudan Government will even take advantage to ignore other serious issues concerning Community welfare such as security throughout the country and environmental population in Ruweng Administrative Area and other oil producing areas.
When I talk of the South Sudan Government, I exclude the SPLM-IO as currently there two parallel Governments operating under RTGONU. Thus, the Government I am talking about here is the Government of President Kiir (Incumbent TGoNU) that is working against the SPLM-IO inside RTGONU.
This article is therefore talking about the problems created by the SPLM-IG that control minerals though within RTGONU. Hence, I am looking at the problems facing the people of Ruweng Administrative Area and other oil producing areas being mismanaged the SPLM-IG while trying to pretend that the government is one and the blame should be shared by all Government officials including the officials from the SPLM-IO side.
The SPLM-IG is solely responsible for the environmental crisis that they are currently facing. Though they have been bitterly complaining aboutthe environmental pollution and degradation before the signing of the Revitalized Agreement and even at present, but the government of President Kiir with his Former First Vice President who is also one of the Current Five Vice Presidents have been turning deaf ears to the complaints of the people of Ruweng Administrative Area.
Not only that the SPLM-IG gnore the complaints of the people of Ruweng Administrative Area but they have also threatened them with law suit that they are being defamed by the representatives of the people of Ruweng. However, the existing facts show that there is no defamation as there is a truth that the government is implicit in the destruction of the environment in Ruweng Administrative Area to the detriment to the people there.
The facts show that the South Sudanese High Ranking Government are involved in several businesses dealing with mining and oil drilling. This is against the common law which prohibits the government officials such as the President, his or her Vice and Ministers from engaging in any business as long as they are in the Government business or Government Offices.
The law prohibiting Government officials from engaging in business is purposely intended to prevent conflict of interest in interfering with honest judgment of such Government officials. In South Sudan however it is not the case.
Several reports have found out that the President or members of his close family including his sons and daughters have shares in Companies that are dealing in mining.. In addition, some of the Vice Presidents are reported to have Companies dealing in oil. This is the source of the conflict of interest.
It is due to such conflict of interest created by the government officials’ involvement in private businesses that arises in the situation where the Government officials officially engage in private bbusinesses is the cause of sufferings of our people in Ruweng Administrative Area and other oil or mineral producing areas.
The Government of South Sudan is unable to take concrete measures to control environmental pollution as it can affect their private businesses. This has led to the serious destruction of environment in oil producing areas. As ABC News Network reported on February 13, 2020, the oil industry in South Sudan has left a landscape pocked with hundreds of open waste pits with the water and soil contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, and accounts of “alarming” birth defects, miscarriages and other health problems.
The above report by ABC News Network was based on four environmental reports obtained by The Associated Press. As it has been pointed out above, those four reports concluded that oil industry in South Sudan has left a landscape pocked with hundreds of open waste pits, the water and soil contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Those four reports contained absolute truth as Associated Press obtained them and their supporting documents from people with close knowledge of the oil operations, one of whom works in the industry. Unfortunately, they were never released publicly., Which means that the scale of damage on environment and on the local people in the area may be higher than previously thought or reported by the Government.
Based on the findings contained in four reports, the ABC News Network concluded that “South Sudan is running one of the dirtiest and poorest managed oil operations on the planet (said Egbert Wesselink, the former head of a European coalition of more than 50 non-profit organizations focused on the impacts of the country’s oil sector).
The oil business is reported to be dirtiest in the world because it is ruthless as it doesn’t care about the interest of the local people. For instance, there are numerous reports that community leaders and lawmakers in the oil-rich areas in Upper Nile and Unity states have tried their best to the extent of accusing the South Sudan’s government and the two main oil consortiums, the Chinese-led Dar Petroleum Operating Co. and the Greater Pioneer Operating Co., of neglecting the issue and trying to silence those who have tried to expose the problem, they have been ignored or the journalists that work with media Houses to help them have been harassed or have even detained several times. .
One of the journalists that was detained for reporting on negative oil impact in the above mentioned two areas was the AP reporter who was detained and questioned by government officials and government security forces working on behalf of the oil companies.
As I have already stated above, the conflict of interest is the dominating fact in South which is affecting the citizens directly.
The clear example in that respect is the National Security Officers who have been deployed in all the mining sector and in all the oil companies dealing in oil whereby the earns thousands of dollars and within no time become stringy rich.
As a result, the National Security personnel instead of investigating how the reports concerning the mismanagement of oil and environmentt by those oil companies and other businesses, they protect environmental wrongs committed by those companies.
With the use of the State Security apparatuses to protect the oil companies and other businesses, South Sudan has become hunting ground for wealth as Profession Lumumba once observed. Thus, the oil companies and the Government Officials become Comrade in arms to the environmental destruction and are not willing to restore the soil to its original status.
Moreover, the 2% that the law says should be allocated to the oil producing areas is fraudulently taken by the government officials in charge of oil producing areas. Sadly enough, the environment and the local people are left to suffer indefinitely as shown by the fact that several reports on the damage to the environment by the oil production have been ignored or deliberately buried.
In point is a 2014 report by the Dutch NGO Cordaid that found that there are strong indications of the presence of toxic waste water, drilling muds, oils spills, and chemicals have seriously polluted the environment but that report was not accepted by the Government as it was likely to affect Government interest in oil companies.
The Government is bound to protect oil companies whether by crooks or fair means. Hence, when the Government sees that the local people are becoming aware of their rights it then hypocritically sympathizes with them and pretend to listen to their demands as witnessed recently.
Recently, thepeople of Melut went on demonstration and Government pretend to listen to them by giving them fake promises that will never be given to them. The aborted plan to demonstrate by the people of Ruweng Administrative Area that was about to take place on September 11, 2020, has been destroyed through conspiracy within the Government as politicians who represent them became the first opposers to the planned demonstration.
As the Government is playing the game of hide and seek, the communities living near oil fields have been rising their concerns over health problems such as infertility, miscarriages, and eye and skin problem caused by the careless oil drilling by the government and oil companies, which they have ignored so far or sweet talk into silence.
Due to the Conflict of interest as I have already pointed out above, the Government of South Sudan is unable, and perhaps unwilling, to hold oil companies accountable or provide the security and capacity to repair environmental hotspots. Unfortunately without Government direct involvement in regulating the activities of foreign and national oil companies are unable to undertake self regulate in their environmental management.
As PAX reported sometime back, foreign companies have been unhelpful, to say the least rather they have been involved in forced displacement of local people to pave the way for oil production.
In its November 2018 report, commissioned by Dar Petroleum, it found that there are “extremely high” levels of hydrocarbons — chemicals such as benzene that make up oil and natural gas and can cause serious health effects. It also documented 650 waste pits filled with water contaminated with arsenic and lead, and millions of liters of water contaminated with drilling chemicals sitting in ponds.
However, Dar Petroleum, which is a consortium that includes China’s state-owned China National Petroleum and Sinopec, along with companies in Malaysia and Egypt and South Sudan’s state-owned oil company — never acted, according to two people with close knowledge of the oil operations in the area who didn’t want to be named for fear of their safety.
In summary, the people of Ruweng Administrative Area and Melut plus the people in other producing areas deserve protection from the Government. The oil companies should drillat their expenses. The oil companies must compensate the victims of their ruthless drilling. If nothing is done to provide the redress to the conditions of the people affected, then they have the right to protect themselves and their environment instead of allowing themselves to be destroyed at their watch.
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