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The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) evacuated 191 of its employees in South Sudan amid worries over an escalation in the armed conflict between the government and opposition troops.
A CNPC statement issued on 19 June mentioned that only 77 of their workers remain in the African country manning the company’s oilfields. The communiqué further detailed that CNPC will try maintain normal operations in South Sudan. Nevertheless, the firm warns that it may remove all its personnel should the situation worsen.
China spent US$20 billion in Sudan before it split into two separate countries in 2011, and initially the investment paid off as nearly 14 million barrels of oil were produced in the first ten months of 2013. Yet the advent of civil war starting in December 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar led to tens of thousands of people dead and output plummeting to 120,000 barrel per day.
Clashes erupted earlier this month in the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba that left 272 people dead, including two United Nations peacekeepers from China. Both sides in the conflict declared a ceasefire on 12 July, but fighting could resume over the mobilization of 3000 rebels threatening to attack Juba.
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“We are communicating with them to stop this and disperse,” said Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang to Bloomberg. “If they insist to fight, we will attack them with our air force. This is the warning we are giving them.”
In light of the reescalation of the conflict, Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan, India, and Uganda have all attempted to pull their citizens out of South Sudan.
The conflict has limited oil production to the northern Upper Nile state even though South Sudan maintained 75 percent of Sudan’s oil supply following independence. Sudan holds a vital importance over its landlocked neighbor, which maintains pipelines and other facilities used in order to export South Sudanese oil via the Bashayer port along the Red Sea.
By Erwin Cifuentes for Oilprice.com
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Erwin Cifuentes is a Contributing Editor for Southern Pulse Info where he focuses on politics, economics and security issues in Latin America and the Caribbean.…