Briefing | June 14, 2014

South Sudan: the call for a moratorium on new oil contracts

South Sudan is the world’s newest country and its most oil-dependent. It is in the midst of a violent crisis which has killed thousands and displaced more than 1 million South Sudanese citizens. Oil has been a key driver of the conflict, concentrating the worst of the fighting in the oil producing states of Unity and Upper Nile, and culminating in the massacre of hundreds of citizens in both state capitals. As a central part of the problem, oil has to be a key part of the solution.

Global Witness is calling on the government of South Sudan to issue a moratorium on all new contracts in their oil sector.  This means suspending the issuing of any new contracts and calling a halt to any ongoing negotiations.

Since the outbreak of conflict, oil revenues have been diverted to finance the war, and there is a real risk that multi-million dollar payments made by companies to secure future projects will also fail to reach the development budget. New investors also face a chaotic and insecure situation in South Sudan, which threatens to drive down the price the government can secure for remaining oil assets, as well as undermining their ability to attract responsible investors.

South Sudan’s government has spent months developing laws which should ensure that the country’s oil sector is not a source of corruption or conflict. However, putting them into practice has taken a back seat as the war has worsened, and the rule of law has weakened. 

The government owes it to South Sudan’s citizens to call time on new contracting and to step away from the negotiating table. Until peace and the rule of law have returned, this is not the time for new deals.