South Sudanese rebels allied to former first Vice President Riek Machar on Monday vowed never to release again any foreign oil workers captured near the war-torn country’s northern oil fields.
The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO) spokesman William Deng Gatjiath said that they will no longer pardon any foreign oil workers captured again following last week’s release by rebels of three foreign oil workers. “Definitely, this is the last warning for them (foreign oil workers) to leave the area, otherwise we will not release anyone again if we catch them,” he revealed.”They are the ones prolonging this war because they help the government to acquire more armies or equipment,” he added.
Gatjiath also disclosed that the Pakistani engineer and two Indians working for the Dar petroleum oil company were released on the request of the Indian and Pakistan governments. The SPLA-IO also in March freed eight aid workers working for the U.S-based charity Samaritan’s Purse captured in the Mayendit county area of northern Unity state where the United Nations in February declared famine with some 100,000 people starving and further one million on the brink. Last month, six aid workers including four Kenyans were ambushed and killed by unknown gunmen along Juba-Pibor road bringing the number to 80 of aid workers killed since violence broke out in December 2013.
The rebel spokesman also disclosed that both foreign and national aid workers were free to access rebel controlled areas. “Up to now they (aid workers) are working 24 hours in our liberated areas because those suffering are our communities. We don’t need to jeopardize the movement of humanitarian aid workers,” he said. South Sudan’s oil dependent economy has been weakened amid hyper inflation of 835 percent caused by decline in oil production from over 350,000 barrels a day (bpd) to less than 130,000 bpd due to more than three years of ongoing conflict. And the latest kidnappings of oil workers could further dent the transitional unity government’s hope of using badly needed hard currency from oil sales to cushion its weak economy.