March 4, 2011 (BENTIU) – The White Nile Petroleum Operating Company, which operates in South Sudan’s Unity state, held an event on Thursday celebrating the region’s independence. The South is due to become independent in July after an overwhelming vote in favour of separation in a referendum earlier this year.
The vote was agreed as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended over two decades of civil war between southern rebels and the Khartoum government. Since the deal the main rebel group the SPLM shared power and oil with the Khartoum government and governed the South as an autonomous region.
After the CPA, oil companies operating in the South, continued to be run from Khartoum, but that is all set to change once independence of Republic of South Sudan becomes independent on 9 July.
White Nile Petroeum Operating Company held a celebration Thursday for the independence of South Sudan at its main oil field Tharjath in Koch
County, south of Bentiu. The event was themed “together we deliver,” as the oil company promised to build partnership with South Sudan for
peace and development.
Faruok Gatkuoth is the deputy chairman of WNPOC said, “We cannot stand a loop as a company operating in South Sudan seeing the people of South Sudan celebrating the creation of new nation, we said no we can’t stand hand tided, we must be also seeing celebrating together with people of south Sudan that is the main idea, and the main dream that we have as WNPOC, we are very happy today that we have transformed this in to reality”.
The company began operating in early 2001, well before the before the CPA. WNPOC is majority owned by PETRONAS, a Malaysian state-owned company. They bought the company from Lundin, a Swedish company. During Lundin’s tenure, tens of thousands of people in the oil block south of Bentiu were driven from their homes by government forces and militia loyal to Paulino Matip, who became the deputy chief of the southern army (SPLA) in 2006.
Some locals now complain that the oil waste water is polluting the area’s drinking water, and say almost none of the oil wealth has been used to develop their war ravaged homeland. At the event, WNPOC promised to deliver services and development to the local people, particularly the citizens of Unity State. They said that since the south will be independent, there will be a new system for company operations.
Unity governor Gatkuoth said: “We will still be there to support the state, we still are there to add to all what we have, to increase our energy and effort to increase the productions and communities development and name it”.
The South Sudan government says it will keep strong relations with the Khartoum government. Unity State governor Taban Deng said that oil is now what binds the two sides together as the only way to export and refine the oil is using pipelines and refineries in the North.
Deng said, “we will have future relation; it is very important there cannot be northern Sudan with South Sudan and via versa, we have lot in common and one of the commonality is where we are now, the issues of oil which very central to both nations, oil will continue to guide us and unite us serving the interest of both nations”.
The governor called upon young southerners who studied geology or oil production to consider working in the south’s oil industry. He said that the government would reverse, what he described as, the policy from Khartoum that all oil employees must come from the north. The governor added that those northerners currently employed by the oil companies will not lose their jobs, because their experience would assist the young new employees from the south.