JUBA, South Sudan - Emboldened by a new peace deal, civil war-torn South Sudan says it will resume oil production in a key region next month to make up for more than $4 billion of revenue lost during years of fighting.
South Sudan, with Africa’s third-largest oil reserves, will renew drilling in northern Unity State for the first time since the fields were destroyed when the conflict began in late 2013, oil ministry officials told The Associated Press.
The goal is to have all five locations there operational by the end of the year and working alongside the oil fields in Upper Nile State, which operated throughout the civil war.
South Sudan’s economy is almost entirely dependent on exports of oil from its 3.5 billion barrels of reserves. Most of the oil rigs were shut down or destroyed by the civil war.
The fighting that killed tens of thousands of people has also devastated the economy and sent prices for everyday items soaring.
Oil was central to South Sudan’s potential when it won independence from Sudan in 2011.
In the seven years before the civil war began, oil brought in more than $13 billion in revenue, according to the finance ministry.
South Sudan’s government is optimistic about the resumed production, even attributing the peace deal signed early this month to the country’s reserves.
“Without oil there probably wouldn’t be peace right now,” Awow Daniel Chuang, the oil ministry’s director-general, told AP.
However, that peace is fragile. This week South Sudan’s opposition briefly refused to sign the final peace agreement because of outstanding issues.
It accused the government of using oil revenues to buy weapons, ammunition and politicians to undermine the peace, said opposition spokesman Mabior Garang de Mabior.
The new peace deal was brokered by Sudan, which has a vested interest in its neighbor’s oil production.