JUBA, March 23 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Friday slammed the recent decision by the United States to sanction 15 oil companies including two crucial government agencies as a plot to fasten regime change and collapse the Salva Kiir presidency.
Makuei Lueth, the Minister of Information, told Xinhua in Juba that the imposition of sanctions on Wednesday by the U.S. State Department on the country's oil operators that it said were important sources of cash for the government showed Washington is motivated by regime change through cutting off the oil revenue which is key lifeline for survival of the world's youngest nation.
"This is continuation of the same policy of regime change. The American government has been clear that current leaders of South Sudan cannot continue," Lueth said, referring to earlier remarks by U.S. diplomat Nikki Haley that President Kiir is "unfit partner."
The sanctions were imposed on the state-owned Nile Petroleum Company (Nilepet), Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC), Malaysia's Petronas, Nigerian consortium Oranto Petroleum and other listed local companies barred from trading and dealing with U.S. based companies.
Oranto oil made entrance into South Sudan, Africa's third largest oil producer last year to explore blocks in the northern Jonglei area.
"They are steps being taken so that the government can collapse and the rebels can take over. If they can sanction ministries of petroleum, mining and Nilepet so that the government collapses within a short time," he disclosed.
South Sudan depends 98 percent on oil to finance its annual fiscal budget which has been hugely disrupted by over four years of conflict with production in the northern oil fields declining to less than 160,000 barrels a day (bpd).
The ministry of petroleum had earlier on projected to increase oil output to over 260,000 bpd as the completion of the Tharjiath oil refinery nears in Bentiu to help shore up the hugely battered economy amid hyperinflation.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his former deputy Riek Machar leading to fighting between mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir and ethnic Nuer soldiers loyal to Machar.
The violence has killed tens of thousands, leaving two million people displaced and two million others living as refugees in neighboring countries.
The efforts by regional leaders to revive the 2015 peace agreement shattered in the wake of renewed violence in July 2016 are yet to bear fruit as they have been indefinitely suspended after the warring parties failed to make headway.