Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth - Minister of Petroleum, South Sudan HARDtalk


Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth - Minister of Petroleum, South Sudan

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Stay with BBC World News.

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Now on BBC News,

it's time for HARDtalk.

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Welcome to HARDtalk.

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I'm Stephen Sackur.

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South Sudan's first six and a half

years as an independent country have

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been an unmitigated disaster.

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A brutal civil conflict,

a broken economy, famine and

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epic levels of corruption.

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On any and every measure,

the world's newest

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country is failing.

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And this despite some of the largest

oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa.

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My guest today is South Sudan's

Minister of Petroleum,

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Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.

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Who or what can deliver

South Sudan's people from despair?

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Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth,

welcome to HARDtalk.

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Thank you for having me here.

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As I just said, South Sudan

is just over six years

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old as an independent nation.

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In your worst nightmares,

could you have imagined just how

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horrible the situation

in your country would be today?

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Well, thank you for

having me on this show.

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The Republic of South Sudan gained

independence in July 2011.

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On the 9th of July.

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Of course, we are transitioning

from a liberation movement

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to now running a state, and running

a state is a serious business.

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And we are working together

with the president of the Republic

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of South Sudan to forge a better

future for the people

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of South Sudan.

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But the direction of travel

is backwards, not forwards.

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I mean, since 2013, you've been

stuck in this brutal,

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bloody civil conflict

inside the country.

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And for you and people like you,

who were the generation very much

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involved in achieving independence,

that hope, that reconciliation

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and unity that we saw expressed

around the time of independence,

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it's completely disappeared.

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It is because there are individuals

who are struggling for power,

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and that is why we are

in the situation.

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There are some individuals

who are interested in power,

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in the state of running the people

of South Sudan.

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He was interested in being

on the top, by actually

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being the president of the

Republic of South Sudan.

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You mentioned Riek Machar,

currently in exile.

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He fled the country in fear

of his life in 2016.

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He was your political

mentor in many ways.

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You backed him for

an awful long time.

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You then jumped ship

and decided to throw your lot

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with President Salva Kiir.

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But what we have at the centre

of South Sudan is a fundamental

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division between the Dinka

and Nuer people.

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There is an agreement

that we are implementing.

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An agreement was signed

in 2015, August.

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We are implementing that agreement.

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That agreement is being implemented.

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And what we are doing together

with President Salva Kiir Mayardit

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is to bring to those who are not

part of the agreement

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to be on board.

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And then from there,

we transition from where we are now

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to a better future for all of us.

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Better future sounds great as words,

but look at reality.

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The civil conflict continues.

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The latest human rights watch report

just came out for 2018,

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looking back at 2017.

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It talks about government and rebel

forces committing egregious abuses

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that qualify as war crimes,

looting and

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attacks on civilians,

destruction of civilian property,

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arbitrary arrests and detention,

torture, enforced disappearances,

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rape, including gang rapes,

and extrajudicial executions.

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So whatever you tell me

about an agreement in Juba,

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on the ground across your country,

civilians are being

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terrorised and killed.

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Let me tell you these are reports,

but the reality on the ground now,

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there is peace in Juba.

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Actually you can even party

into the night,

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until two, three in the morning.

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There is peace in Juba.

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80% of the whole

country is peaceful.

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It is not like what it used to be

in 2013, 2014, 2015.

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One third of your entire population

has been forced to flee their homes.

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One third!

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Yes, this is the report.

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I'm telling you...

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You're going to talk to me

about parties in Juba

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but right across your nation,

there are people who have fled

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in fear of their lives.

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Tens, hundreds of thousands

living in IDP camps.

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And those are the ones who haven't

fled across the country's borders

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into the neighbouring states.

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That is what I'm telling.

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This is a report.

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But what I can tell you.

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Of course there are people

in Uganda, there are people

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in Ethiopia, there are people

who are in Kenya and in Sudan,

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because of the war that we had

in 2013 and also in 2016.

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And what we are doing...

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Of course, propaganda is there.

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People are being told that

if you do not leave,

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the government is coming

to kill you.

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All we are doing now

and the people are coming back

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because we are actually telling them

that actual dialogue.

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Peace will come within our cities.

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Minister, I have to confess I'm

shocked that you say these reports

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of the crisis continuing

are nothing but propaganda.

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We know that even in the last year,

your country has been

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at risk of mass famine

because of the insecurity

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across the country.

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And more than half of all your

people, according to the independent

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international aid agencies,

are living with hunger right now.

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What I'm actually telling you...

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I'm not disputing the report.

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I'm basically saying, yes,

there are cases that

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are actually real...

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This is the breakdown of a nation.

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This isn't sporadic cases

in far-flung corners of South Sudan.

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This is a nation that has

failed, that is broken.

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We have not failed.

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We have a government

that is functioning.

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We have a president,

a presidency and a cabinet

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that is functioning.

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Of course you know

the situation that we are in,

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it is our own making.

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We, the leaders of the Republic

of South Sudan, we are actually

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working to fix it together,

all of us.

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President Salva Kiir,

he is leading the nation.

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And I can assure you we will

actually get out of this.

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It is not unique to South Sudan.

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In Africa as a whole,

we went through these

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transitions, and then we had

this liberation syndrome.

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Some people will say I can

run it better than you,

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and the power struggle will come.

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If you look at it, it is actually

is a power struggle.

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In 2005 until 2013,

there was no war in the country.

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But when Riek Machar made it

clear he was going to run

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and he was dismissed along with some

ministers, that's

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when the war started.

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It won't wash, will it, Minister,

blaming Riek Machar for all of this?

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I mean, look at what

the international community has said

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in the very recent past

about whom they see as culpable

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for the total breakdown that

I described in your country today.

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The UN Secretary-General Antonio

Guterres said at a meeting

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recently on South Sudan,

"I have never seen a political

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elite with so little

interest in the well-being

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of its own people."

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Yes, I can...

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Well, of course, this is his opinion

and I can agree with his...

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What he is saying, he might be

right in some cases.

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But not everybody who is

actually not putting

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the people's interest at heart.

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And that's why we are here in this

government, to deliver it.

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Regardless of the challenges

we are getting, because there

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are people who are actually tried

to drag us down.

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But we are actually moving forward.

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We're moving forward

by bringing peace.

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We have an agreement...

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But to move forward,

you have to be honest

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about the situation...

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I'm very honest.

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You've dismissed much

of what I reported is happening

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on the ground in the country.

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And it is interesting that

when Mark Green, the head of USAID,

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one of the key donor countries

looking to help in South Sudan,

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when he saw Salva Kiir recently,

he emerged and sources close to him

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said, and I'm quoting from the US

media, that he was shocked to be

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lied to so brazenly by the president

about the situation in the country.

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And he then, that is Mr Green,

said that he would undertake

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a complete review of American policy

toward South Sudan.

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The Americans have given

up on your government.

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This is his opinion.

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And we respect that.

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The US will continue to be an ally.

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Of course, they have been a bit

difficult with us recently.

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But why do you think

that is, Minister?

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Why do you think that is,

that they oppose an arms embargo,

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they have put sanctions on two

of your most senior generals

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and the Minister of Information,

accusing them all of outrageous

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levels of corruption?

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Why do you think the

Americans are doing this?

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You know, we are really

concerned about the decisions

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that the Americans are taking.

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America is an ally, a friend to us,

and to the people of South Sudan.

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But for them, you don't

give sanctions to your

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friends, you don't...

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You sanction your friends

if they are betraying

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the interest of your own people.

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You advise your friends.

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You don't sanction them.

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Well, there comes a point

where you can be friends no longer

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with people who are consistently

betraying their own people.

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It is very unfortunate

if America takes that route.

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For us, we will continue to reach

out to the support of the US.

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They have been supporting us,

we are not denying that.

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But again, Minister,

let's pick away at the specifics.

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You tell me that, you know,

your government is committed

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to reconciliation, unity

and building a country.

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Why is it that in the recent talks

in Addis Ababa, under the auspices

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of the Intergovernmental Authority

on Development, a regional effort

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to get the South Sudan

conflict under control

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and stabilise the situation.

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The government side, your side,

simply walked away from the talks

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when the opposition put together

a proposal on a national

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unity government.

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Actually it was the opposite.

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President Salva Kiir

is actually committed

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It means an actual terms that those

who are not part of the agreement

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should be brought on board,

and what we are proposing

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is that we implement the agreement.

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How do we bring them on board?

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By actually expanding

the government.

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President Salva Kiir Mayardit...

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The presidency remains intact.

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Below the presidency,

you create the layer.

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Bottom line is, as Secretary-General

of one of the opposition groups,

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the South Sudan national movement

for change, said, the government

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delegation simply wasn't willing

to end the violence in South Sudan

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because in the end,

there are too many interests,

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particularly in the military,

who see a profit to be made.

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And out of the continued conflict.

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It is the opposite.

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We are interested...

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And that's all we came up

with a proposal, a proposal

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can include everybody.

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When you are actually including,

you don't exclude, you include.

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So that you can actually

be part of the process

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to implement the agreement.

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So that everybody is party

to this peace agreement.

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And when we implement,

we implement together

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to a democrat election.

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The problem is, as I keep saying,

on the ground, the reality doesn't

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match your very optimistic

and confident words.

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And that matters to you than most

people but you're the minister

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responsible for oil and gas

production, and as we see,

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right now, oil and gas production

is way down on the levels

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it was even before independence

because of the chronic insecurity

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across the oilfields.

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My vision as the minister

of petroleum is to...

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Just tell me.

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Barrels per day right now.

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We are producing 143,000

barrels a day...

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Do you know what figure

was before independence?

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480,000 barrels a day.

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It's a quarter!

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You're producing roughly a quarter

of the oil that the region produced

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before the civil conflict began.

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Now the good news is that we are

actually going to be reaching

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200,000 barrels a day by the end

of this year, and we are

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going to reopen oilfields

in a former unity state.

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And then now, with the current

oil prices going up,

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and we will pray that it continues

to actually remain the same, we

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are actually going getting better.

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are actually getting better.

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Our financial situation last year,

this year is better than last year

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and we're moving forward.

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Interesting you talk

about the financial situation.

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Is it true, as a deputy oil minister

in your government told Reuters News

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Agency at the end of last year,

is it true that your government

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still owes the Sudanese government

in Khartoum $1.3 billion in back

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payments dating back to oil

production for 2012?

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This is the deputy minister

of finance and planning.

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Well, it is true that we are owing

them, because when we split

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the country into two in 2011,

we realised we are taking 75%

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of the oil and we have agreed as two

countries, in the spirit

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of the viability of the two

countries, we have agreed

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to give them $3 billion.

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And you still owe them 1.3 billion.

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And we are paying them.

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We are actually paying monthly.

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Forgive me.

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1.3 billion represents what,

possibly eight years

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of forward revenues

from your entire oil sector?

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What we have done, we translate this

3 billion into barrels.

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How much we will actually

pay them a barrel.

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We are paying them $15 a barrel

and is a we have been paying

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for the last three and a half years.

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I have extended it when I

came in office 2016.

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I have extended it for another

two and a half years,

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and we are actually paying

and we will continue to pay them.

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So despite the notion

of independence in your

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country since 2011,

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you're actually being squeezed

by the Sudanese government.

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They're taking a huge proportion

of the income of every barrel of oil

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and they also control the shipment

because it's got to go through their

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through their country to get

to a port.

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In essence, Sudan has a huge amount

of control over your oil business.

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Of course it is true

that they are transporting our oil

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and we'll continue to transport our

oil from Sudan.

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Remember, we are one country

and we are one people

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who will continue to be

friends and brothers...

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Excuse me, but you just fought a 50

year war against these people

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and now you're admitted to me that

Khartoum, in essence,

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has control of your key industry.

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Because the pipeline is transporting

our oil to Port Sudan,

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and we will continue

to use that pipeline.

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You know, politics is politics.

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The people of Sudan and South Sudan

who remain to be there,

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and that's what we have realised

as two countries, we have

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to co-operate so that we can

transport the oil.

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It is actually going to benefit

the people of South Sudan

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and the people of Sudan.

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Bottom line, Minister,

when you desperately appeal

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for international investment

in your oil and gas sector,

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the big players like Exxon Mobil

and others, they look

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at what is happening on the ground,

they are looking at the chronic

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insecurity, they look

at the relationship with Sudan,

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they look at the failure to deliver

on infrastructure or any semblance

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of the government in your country

and they say "We don't

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want any part of that."

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It is actually the opposite.

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From here, I will be

flying to Paris.

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They met my president last month

in Juba and they are interested.

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This is a British-based company

and a state owned oil

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company of Kuwait...

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Strictly and explicitly set last

year that they were putting any

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ambitions they had in South Sudan

on hold because of the

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insecurity in your country.

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It is the opposite.

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I was the one who told them

that we need to reach an agreement

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as soon as possible.

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We all know you want them.

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The question is do they want you?

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They want me.

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I'm the one with the oil.

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You're the one with the oil

and you only produce a quarter

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of what you did produce before,

a vast amount of the revenue goes

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to the Sudanese government.

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Your government

is crippled in debts.

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I like the smile, but you've

nothing to smile about.

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By the way, you are forgetting

that the NPC, the Chinese

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state owned company,

is in South Sudan.

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The Malaysian oil state owned

company is in South Sudan.

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Oh, believe me, I'm not forgetting.

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I'm also very aware when people look

at investing in your oil

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business, they see nothing

but danger, risk, insecurity.

0:17:500:17:52

Let me tell you it is

actually the opposite.

0:17:520:17:54

What we have decided so far,

the president of the Republic

0:17:540:17:56

decreed a petroleum security.

0:17:570:18:02

Three layers that is responsible

for the protection of oil

0:18:020:18:04

workers and also oilfields.

0:18:040:18:05

Oilfields, as we speak now,

they are 100% secure.

0:18:050:18:07

The kidnapping that

happened last year,

0:18:070:18:09

it was actually a wake-up call.

0:18:090:18:10

So that we can beef up our security.

0:18:100:18:15

What I can actually tell you openly

and honestly, oilfields

0:18:150:18:17

and oil workers are secure.

0:18:170:18:20

That's why we...

0:18:200:18:27

They are interested and we are going

to reach an agreement

0:18:270:18:30

on block B-1 and B-2 soon.

0:18:300:18:32

You're an optimist.

0:18:320:18:38

Let us just assume for a moment that

you are right and that you can ramp

0:18:380:18:41

up oil production in a very dramatic

way over the next

0:18:410:18:44

couple of years or so.

0:18:440:18:50

The problem with that is that

there's been the question over

0:18:500:18:53

the oil revenues will go,

and we know the way

0:18:530:18:55

in which independent experts have

analysed governance in South Sudan,

0:18:550:18:58

we know that the vast

proportion of that money

0:18:580:19:00

will simply go to the elites,

the warlords, the top officials

0:19:000:19:05

in the military and the government

who siphon off vast amounts of cash

0:19:050:19:09

in endemic corruption.

0:19:090:19:11

Corruption is not unique

to South Sudan alone.

0:19:110:19:13

It is everywhere in the world.

0:19:130:19:19

What we are looking for in

South Sudan is strong institutions.

0:19:190:19:22

If we could have institutions that

can fight corruption

0:19:220:19:25

and we are actually basically

appealing to friends and partners

0:19:250:19:35

that, "let us work together to build

these institutions so that corrupt

0:19:450:19:48

officials can be fought

using these institutions."

0:19:480:19:49

Why would anybody believe

you in South Sudan are

0:19:490:19:52

capable of doing that?

0:19:520:19:53

John Pendergrast, who is one

of the most respected analysts

0:19:530:19:55

of corruption in Africa.

0:19:550:19:56

He runs the Enough Project,

has described the South Sudan

0:19:560:19:58

government as "a den of thieves."

0:19:590:20:01

He says it's a kleptocratic

winner-take-all state

0:20:010:20:03

with institutions

that have been hijacked

0:20:030:20:06

by government officials,

commercial collaborators

0:20:060:20:07

for the purposes of self enrichment.

0:20:070:20:08

That is his report and his opinion.

0:20:080:20:10

In that report, I...

0:20:100:20:12

There are a lot of loopholes.

0:20:120:20:14

He did not do a thorough

job in researching.

0:20:140:20:18

I'm not saying that there's not

corruption in South Sudan.

0:20:180:20:22

There is corruption in South Sudan.

0:20:220:20:24

There is corruption here

in the United Kingdom.

0:20:240:20:26

Even in the US, there is corruption.

0:20:260:20:27

The difference between

the United Kingdom and USA

0:20:270:20:29

and South Sudan is because here,

there are institutions

0:20:290:20:32

built to deal with that.

0:20:320:20:35

And that is what we are actually

doing as a government.

0:20:350:20:40

We have a policy of zero tolerance

on corruption, but we have...

0:20:400:20:42

Oh, come on.

0:20:420:20:43

Zero tolerance.

0:20:430:20:45

With respect, that's absurd

in South Sudan today.

0:20:450:20:46

We do.

0:20:460:20:47

We do.

0:20:470:20:49

I mean, corruption is everywhere.

0:20:490:20:51

And just to take one example

which comes back to what happens

0:20:510:20:58

to the oil revenues, the Sentry,

a sort of activist website

0:20:580:21:01

looking at corruption,

made a special study of what happens

0:21:010:21:04

to the vast amount of oil revenues

which end up going into "Security,

0:21:040:21:09

military and intelligence

institutions" in Sudan.

0:21:090:21:11

It seems it's more than half

of all the oil revenues.

0:21:110:21:17

And according to the Sentry,

there is no way to discover exactly

0:21:170:21:20

where the money goes.

0:21:200:21:21

There is no transparency whatsoever.

0:21:210:21:26

"The military involves a large

and fabricated patronage system.

0:21:260:21:27

"The military involves a large

and complicated patronage system.

0:21:330:21:35

There is little oversight of payroll

expenses with leading

0:21:350:21:37

security ministries rarely

reporting their expenditures.

0:21:370:21:42

the salaries of soldiers.

0:21:420:21:43

In many case, military

commanders have stolen

0:21:440:21:45

the salaries of soldiers.

0:21:450:21:46

There are tens of thousands

of ghost soldiers."

0:21:460:21:51

Strong institutions actually

fight this corruption.

0:21:510:21:52

But do you acknowledge

that is what is happening today

0:21:520:21:56

today in your country.

0:21:560:21:59

Given what you are actually

reading now, transparency.

0:21:590:22:01

If you don't have a strong system

to even actually look at the budget,

0:22:010:22:13

work with the Ministry of finance,

work with the parliament,

0:22:130:22:15

so that you know...

0:22:160:22:17

The Ministry of petroleum,

it is very clear how many barrels

0:22:170:22:19

we are producing a day.

0:22:190:22:20

We know the price of

the oil worldwide...

0:22:200:22:22

The issue is where

does the money go?

0:22:220:22:24

This is where the budget matters.

0:22:240:22:26

You need to follow this.

0:22:260:22:29

The minister of finance

and parliament so you can actually

0:22:290:22:37

know and follow where the money

goes, because some

0:22:370:22:39

are actually used for education,

health care and salaries.

0:22:390:22:41

You slashed education and health

care budgets in recent years.

0:22:410:22:43

You know that.

0:22:430:22:44

And the one budget that has not been

slashed, I come back to it,

0:22:440:22:48

is the security budget.

0:22:480:22:49

And there is absolutely no way

of knowing for most of the money

0:22:490:22:52

in that security budget

actually ends up.

0:22:520:22:54

Stephen, as in anywhere

in the world, you must make sure

0:22:540:22:57

you protect the lives of the people

of South Sudan by empowering

0:22:570:23:00

your security force.

0:23:000:23:01

As we've discussed, there is no

security in South Sudan today

0:23:010:23:03

today but let me just...

0:23:030:23:08

We're almost out of time

and I think this is the right

0:23:080:23:10

time to ask you this.

0:23:100:23:12

How do you think the generation,

and that your generation,

0:23:120:23:14

the generation who delivered

and oversaw the independence

0:23:140:23:16

of South Sudan and how do

you think your generation will be

0:23:160:23:19

judged by history?

0:23:190:23:21

Well, definitely history

will be written.

0:23:210:23:25

And for us, I participated

in the first war...

0:23:250:23:27

I mean, the second war of 1983.

0:23:270:23:29

We wanted to be...

0:23:290:23:33

We went wrong as leaders but we're

here to fix and we will make sure

0:23:330:23:38

that we fix it together as South

Sudanese.

0:23:380:23:40

That's what we want

a national dialogue.

0:23:400:23:43

So we talk to ourselves,

our South Sudanese.

0:23:430:23:45

We find out what went wrong

and how do we fix it.

0:23:450:23:48

That's why we have an agreement

that is being implemented.

0:23:480:23:50

We need to implement this agreement.

0:23:500:23:51

And those who are interested

in running for offices,

0:23:510:23:57

whether you want to be president,

whatever you want to be...

0:23:570:24:02

You wait until the right time comes

and then from there, you run.

0:24:020:24:05

OK, we have to end it there.

0:24:060:24:07

Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth,

thank you very much.

0:24:070:24:09

Thank you.

0:24:090:24:15

South Sudan's first six and half years as an independent country have been an unmitigated disaster. A brutal civil conflict, a broken economy, famine and epic levels of corruption - on any and every measure the world's newest country is failing. This comes despite some of the largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa. Stephen Sackur speaks to South Sudan's minister of petroleum, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth. Who or what can deliver South Sudan's people from despair?


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