Addis Ababa - African governments stepped up their efforts
to prevent a shutdown of oil production in South Sudan on Monday, agreeing to
send three generals to investigate Sudanese allegations that Juba is supporting
Sudan, the sole conduit for South Sudan's oil exports, said
last month it would close two cross-border oil pipelines within 60 days and
insisted output be shut by 7 August unless Juba gave up its support for the
rebels. Juba denies backing them.
The two sides fought one of Africa's longest civil wars
before the south won independence in 2011.
Analysts say South Sudan might collapse without oil, the
main source for the budget apart from foreign grants. They point to recent
looting of aid agencies by soldiers as a sign that Juba is struggling to pay
Closing the wells is also bad news for Sudan, which has been
struggling with turmoil since losing most oil reserves with South Sudan's
secession. Oil fees from Juba are essential to bringing down soaring inflation.
A team of three generals from the African Union and East
African bloc IGAD will travel on Tuesday to Khartoum before heading to Juba on
a six-week mission, said Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner of the AU's Peace and
"The decision by Sudan to shut down oil exports until
and unless this issue is properly handled...has brought President Mbeki to
propose to the two countries the formation of this investigation team,"
Lamamra Told a news conference.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is the bloc's
chief mediator for Sudan and South Sudan.
"We hope this mechanism will resolve that longstanding
problem, the allegation by both parties of hosting rebels against the
other," said Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, current chair of
the Horn of Africa grouping IGAD.
Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting the Sudanese
Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance, which complains of neglect at the
hands of the wealthy Khartoum elites. The SRF in April staged an attack on
South Sudan in turn accuses Sudan of backing rebels in its
eastern Jonglei state, where fighting is making it impossible to realise
government plans to search for oil with the help of France's Total and US
South Sudan plans to sell 6.4 million barrels of oil worth
$300m before shutting down its entire production by the end of July due to the
It had only resumed oil production in April, after turning
off wells pumping around 300 000 barrels per day in January 2012 when both
sides failed to agree on pipeline fees.
Oil industry insiders say once the pipelines are closed it
will take several months to restart production as they would have to be flushed
of water and cleaned first.