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Fighting rages in Upper Nile State, threatens key oil facilities

MiCT The Niles
Fighting between government forces and rebels erupted on Tuesday, May 19, in Paloch, Upper Nile State, one of South Sudan’s key oil areas.
21.05.2015  |  Berlin
A market in Malakal destroyed by fighting, February 3, 2014.
A market in Malakal destroyed by fighting, February 3, 2014.

Rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar said they are five kilometres away from the oil area and had ordered all oil operating companies to leave the area, as they are determined to capture the strategic site.

Our forces have repulsed and pursued government forces up to the oilfields.”
James Gatdet Dak
Our forces have repulsed and pursued government forces up to the oilfields. We have on Monday night captured Tangrial Bil, the site of the refinery, which is 10 km away from the main Paloch oilfields,” James Gatdet Dak, the rebels Spokesman, said in an official statement released Tuesday. In Tuesday’s clashes we have captured the government’s warship mounted with heavy artilleries,” Dak said.

He further stated that in response to the government’s full scale offensive on our positions in the three States of Greater Upper Nile region, we have decided to take control of the oil fields and deny Salva Kiir from using the oil revenues to perpetuate the war”.

Dak also claims rebels are in full control of Malakal capital after fighting there broke out last Friday.

South Sudan government Spokesman Michael Makuei however, rubbished Dak’s claims. These allegations that they have taken over the oil areas is not true. They even alleged that they have taken over a refinery but we have no refinery in Upper Nile,” Makuei said.

All these are lies that are being fabricated by the rebels in order to win the support of the people and misinform the international community about the progress which they are making against the government forces,” Makuei said.

All these are lies that are being fabricated by the rebels.”
Michael Makuei
He denied rebels to have taken control of Malakal, insisting that it is partly controlled by them – rebels - and partly controlled by us – government”.

Makuei said fighting continues inside Malakal and surrounding areas.

Dak said government forces have been forced to about 30 km south of Malakal.

Meanwhile the humanitarian situation worsens. We are urging humanitarian organisations to intervene to assist the lives of the IDPs in Paloch. They need food, water and shelter,” Peter Hoth Tuach, the Upper Nile State Minister for Information appealed.

He added that it was on Tuesday, May 19, that opposition forces started shelling the town and that on Wednesday morning fighting intensified as gunshots were heard from Paloch town centre.

We are urging humanitarian organisations to intervene to assist the lives of the IDPs in Paloch.”
Peter Hoth Tuach
Paloch is a vital oil producing region, earning most of the revenues after facilities in Unity State were destroyed last year during fighting between the government and the rebels.

The current fighting in Malakal peaked after SPLA General, Johnson Olony, from the Shiluk community in Upper Nile State and former militia leader against Kiir’s administration, defected to join Machar’s rebels last Friday.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan or UNMISS said control of Malakal has switched eight times since fighting broke out in late 2013 between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar.