South Sudan army downplays rebel's threat to stop oil production
South Sudan's army, Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), on Tuesday vowed to provide adequate security to oil workers and facilities in the northern region, after rebels threatened to attack the oilfields to disrupt oil production.
SPLA spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang, downplayed the rebel's threat, adding that the government has boosted security in the oil fields and production will continue unobstructed.
"We have the ability to defend the oil fields and there should be no reason for the rebels to think that they will disrupt oil production and compromise the facilities in the oil fields at this particular point when they have become more vulnerable," Koang said.
William Gatjath, spokesman of the opposition SPLA-IO led by the country's former vice president Riek Machar, who is currently exiled in South Africa, on Monday asked oil workers to vacate the oilfields, warning of attacks in the oil rich Upper Nile region.
War-torn South Sudan relies on oil revenue to finance 98 percent of its annual budget. But production has been affected by civil war that broke out in December 2013.
The country's oil output is currently estimated at 130,000 barrels per day, down from 350,000 bpd in 2011.
In March, the rebels abducted several oil workers including two Indians and a Pakistani national working for the Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC) in Adar and Gumry oilfields, northern Upper Nile in a bid to force the government halt oil production.
The foreign oil workers were released following extensive negotiations. The South Sudanese government has since strengthened security by introducing security escorts for oil workers.
"Those threats don't carry any weight. They have been doing it to ensure continuation of economic sabotage," Lul added.