26 February 2014

South Sudan: President Kirr Sacks Upper Nile Oil Minister

Juba — South Sudan president Salva Kiir has sacked the mining and petroleum minister of Upper Nile state, with the decision generating mixed reactions. The presidential order broadcast on the state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Tuesday did not provide further details on what prompted Francis Ayul's removal after just over three months in the job.

Neither the president's spokesperson nor the Upper Nile state governor have issued a statement on the matter.

The order also cancelled the creation of a state ministry of mining and petroleum, with some government officials at central and state level attributing the decision to the closure and subsequent evacuation of foreign oil workers from Gumri and Adar oil fields.

Ayul said last week the state government had carried out the evacuations at the request foreign oil companies amid ongoing conflict over control of the area.

The minister in the office of the president, Awan Guol Riak, described the actions of the state government as "irrational".

Upper Nile is South Sudan's main oil-producing state, with production from Unity state severely dropping since the outbreak of conflict in mid-December.

State capital Malakal changed hands several times at the height of the conflict between pro-government forces and rebel fighters aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, who was sacked last July.

The strategic town was the scene of heavy fighting recently after violence flared last week despite a ceasefire agreement signed by both sides in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 23 January.

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