up its nuclear programme. with north korea unless it gives south korea claimed pyongyang had signalled its willingness to hold talks with the us at a meeting before the winter olympics closing ceremony. there's been a suspected chemical attack in syria. activists say these pictures are from a hospital in eastern ghouta, an area under intense attack for a week. this video is training on bbc .com right now. this video is trending on bbc.com right now. the winter olympics, which saw such a mix of politics and sport, has ended with a spectacular ceremony watched by athletes and sports fans. norway finished top of the medal table, overtaking germany in the final event. that's all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur.
south sudan's first six and a 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. and this despite some of the largest oil reserves in sub—saharan africa. my guest today is south sudan's minister of petroleum, ezekiel lol gatkuoth. who or what can deliver south sudan's people from despair? ezekiel lol gatkuoth, welcome to hardtalk.
thank you for having me here. as ijust said, south sudan is just over six years old as an independent nation. in your worst nightmares, could you have imagined just how horrible the situation in your country would be today? well, thank you for having me on this show. the republic of south sudan gained independence in july 2011. on the 9th ofjuly. of course, we are transitioning from a liberation movement to now running a state, and running a state is a serious business. and we are working together with the president of the republic of south sudan to forge a better future for the people of south sudan. but the direction of travel is backwards, not forwards. i mean, since 2013, you've been stuck in this brutal, bloody civil conflict inside the country.
and for you and people like you, who were the generation very much involved in achieving independence, that hope, that reconciliation and unity that we saw expressed around the time of independence, it's completely disappeared. it is because there are individuals who are struggling for power, and that is why we are in the situation. there are some individuals who are interested in power, in the state of running the people of south sudan. he was interested in being on the top, by actually being the president of the republic of south sudan. you mentioned riek machar, currently in exile. he fled the country in fear of his life in 2016. he was your political mentor in many ways. you backed him for an awful long time. you then jumped ship and decided to throw your lot with president salva kiir. but what we have at the centre
of south sudan is a fundamental division between the dinka and nuer people. there is an agreement that we are implementing. an agreement was signed in 2015, august. we are implementing that agreement. that agreement is being implemented. and what we are doing together with president salva kiir mayardit is to bring to those who are not part of the agreement to be on board. and then from there, we transition from where we are now to a better future for all of us. better future sounds great as words, but look at reality. the civil conflict continues. the latest human rights watch report just came out for 2018, looking back at 2017. it talks about government and rebel forces committing egregious abuses that qualify as war crimes, looting and
attacks on civilians, destruction of civilian property, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, enforced disappearances, rape, including gang rapes, and extrajudicial executions. so whatever you tell me about an agreement injuba, on the ground across your country, civilians are being terrorised and killed. let me tell you these are reports, but the reality on the ground now, there is peace injuba. actually you can even party into the night, until two, three in the morning. there is peace injuba. 80% of the whole country is peaceful. it is not like what it used to be in 2013, 2014, 2015. one third of your entire population has been forced to flee their homes. one third! yes, this is the report. i'm telling you... you're going to talk to me about parties in juba but right across your nation, there are people who have fled in fear of their lives. tens, hundreds of thousands living in idp camps. and those are the ones who haven't
fled across the country's borders into the neighbouring states. that is what i'm telling. this is a report. but what i can tell you. of course there are people in uganda, there are people in ethiopia, there are people who are in kenya and in sudan, because of the war that we had in 2013 and also in 2016. and what we are doing... of course, propaganda is there. people are being told that if you do not leave, the government is coming to kill you. all we are doing now and the people are coming back because we are actually telling them that actual dialogue. peace will come within our cities. minister, i have to confess i'm shocked that you say these reports of the crisis continuing are nothing but propaganda. we know that even in the last year, your country has been at risk of mass famine because of the insecurity across the country. and more than half of all your people, according to the independent
international aid agencies, are living with hunger right now. what i'm actually telling you... i'm not disputing the report. i'm basically saying, yes, there are cases that are actually real... this is the breakdown of a nation. this isn't sporadic cases in far—flung corners of south sudan. this is a nation that has failed, that is broken. we have not failed. we have a government that is functioning. we have a president, a presidency and a cabinet that is functioning. of course you know the situation that we are in, it is our own making. we, the leaders of the republic of south sudan, we are actually working to fix it together, all of us. president salva kiir, he is leading the nation. and i can assure you we will actually get out of this. it is not unique to south sudan.
in africa as a whole, we went through these transitions, and then we had this liberation syndrome. some people will say i can run it better than you, and the power struggle will come. if you look at it, it is actually is a power struggle. in 2005 until 2013, there was no war in the country. but when riek machar made it clear he was going to run and he was dismissed along with some ministers, that's when the war started. it won't wash, will it, minister, blaming riek machar for all of this? i mean, look at what the international community has said in the very recent past about whom they see as culpable for the total breakdown that i described in your country today. the un secretary—general antonio guterres said at a meeting recently on south sudan, "i have never seen a political elite with so little interest in the well—being of its own people." yes, ican... well, of course, this is his opinion and i can agree with his...
what he is saying, he might be right in some cases. but not everybody who is actually not putting the people's interest at heart. and that's why we are here in this government, to deliver it. regardless of the challenges we are getting, because there are people who are actually tried to drag us down. but we are actually moving forward. we're moving forward by bringing peace. we have an agreement... but to move forward, you have to be honest about the situation... i'm very honest. you've dismissed much of what i reported is happening on the ground in the country. and it is interesting that when mark green, the head of usaid, one of the key donor countries looking to help in south sudan, when he saw salva kiir recently, he emerged and sources close to him said, and i'm quoting from the us media, that he was shocked to be lied to so brazenly by the president about the situation in the country. and he then, that is mr green, said that he would undertake
a complete review of american policy toward south sudan. the americans have given up on your government. this is his opinion. and we respect that. the us will continue to be an ally. of course, they have been a bit difficult with us recently. but why do you think that is, minister? why do you think that is, that they oppose an arms embargo, they have put sanctions on two of your most senior generals and the minister of information, accusing them all of outrageous levels of corruption? why do you think the americans are doing this? you know, we are really concerned about the decisions that the americans are taking. america is an ally, a friend to us, and to the people of south sudan. but for them, you don't give sanctions to your friends, you don't... you sanction your friends if they are betraying the interest of your own people. you advise your friends. you don't sanction them. well, there comes a point
where you can be friends no longer with people who are consistently betraying their own people. it is very unfortunate if america takes that route. for us, we will continue to reach out to the support of the us. they have been supporting us, we are not denying that. but again, minister, let's pick away at the specifics. you tell me that, you know, your government is committed to reconciliation, unity and building a country. why is it that in the recent talks in addis ababa, under the auspices of the intergovernmental authority on development, a regional effort to get the south sudan conflict under control and stabilise the situation. the government side, your side, simply walked away from the talks when the opposition put together a proposal on a national unity government. actually it was the opposite. president salva kiir is actually committed it means an actual terms that those
who are not part of the agreement should be brought on board, and what we are proposing is that we implement the agreement. how do we bring them on board? by actually expanding the government. president salva kiir mayardit... the presidency remains intact. below the presidency, you create the layer. bottom line is, as secretary—general of one of the opposition groups, the south sudan national movement for change, said, the government delegation simply wasn't willing to end the violence in south sudan because in the end, there are too many interests, particularly in the military, who see a profit to be made. and out of the continued conflict. it is the opposite. we are interested... and that's all we came up with a proposal, a proposal can include everybody. when you are actually including, you don't exclude, you include. so that you can actually be part of the process to implement the agreement. so that everybody is party to this peace agreement.
and when we implement, we implement together to a democrat election. the problem is, as i keep saying, on the ground, the reality doesn't match your very optimistic and confident words. and that matters to you than most people but you're the minister responsible for oil and gas production, and as we see, right now, oil and gas production is way down on the levels it was even before independence because of the chronic insecurity across the oilfields. my vision as the minister of petroleum is to... just tell me. barrels per day right now. we are producing 143,000 barrels a day... do you know what figure was before independence? 480,000 barrels a day. it's a quarter! you're producing roughly a quarter of the oil that the region produced before the civil conflict began. now the good news is that we are actually going to be reaching 200,000 barrels a day by the end
of this year, and we are going to reopen oilfields in a former unity state. and then now, with the current oil prices going up, and we will pray that it continues to actually remain the same, we are actually going getting better. are actually getting better. our financial situation last year, this year is better than last year and we're moving forward. interesting you talk about the financial situation. is it true, as a deputy oil minister in your government told reuters news agency at the end of last year, is it true that your government still owes the sudanese government in khartoum $1.3 billion in back payments dating back to oil production for 2012? this is the deputy minister of finance and planning. well, it is true that we are owing them, because when we split the country into two in 2011, we realised we are taking 75%
of the oil and we have agreed as two countries, in the spirit of the viability of the two countries, we have agreed to give them $3 billion. and you still owe them 1.3 billion. and we are paying them. we are actually paying monthly. forgive me. 1.3 billion represents what, possibly eight years of forward revenues from your entire oil sector? what we have done, we translate this 3 billion into barrels. how much we will actually pay them a barrel. we are paying them $15 a barrel and is a we have been paying for the last three and a half years. i have extended it when i came in office 2016. i have extended it for another two and a half years, and we are actually paying and we will continue to pay them. so despite the notion of independence in your country since 2011, you're actually being squeezed by the sudanese government. they're taking a huge proportion of the income of every barrel of oil
and they also control the shipment because it's got to go through their through their country to get to a port. in essence, sudan has a huge amount of control over your oil business. of course it is true that they are transporting our oil and we'll continue to transport our oilfrom sudan. remember, we are one country and we are one people who will continue to be friends and brothers... excuse me, but you just fought a 50 year war against these people and now you're admitted to me that khartoum, in essence, has control of your key industry. because the pipeline is transporting our oil to port sudan, and we will continue to use that pipeline. you know, politics is politics. the people of sudan and south sudan who remain to be there, and that's what we have realised as two countries, we have to co—operate so that we can transport the oil. it is actually going to benefit the people of south sudan and the people of sudan. bottom line, minister, when you desperately appeal
for international investment in your oil and gas sector, the big players like exxon mobil and others, they look at what is happening on the ground, they are looking at the chronic insecurity, they look at the relationship with sudan, they look at the failure to deliver on infrastructure or any semblance of the government in your country and they say "we don't want any part of that." it is actually the opposite. from here, i will be flying to paris. they met my president last month injuba and they are interested. this is a british—based company and a state owned oil company of kuwait... strictly and explicitly set last year that they were putting any ambitions they had in south sudan on hold because of the insecurity in your country. it is the opposite. i was the one who told them that we need to reach an agreement as soon as possible. we all know you want them.
the question is do they want you? they want me. i'm the one with the oil. you're the one with the oil and you only produce a quarter of what you did produce before, a vast amount of the revenue goes to the sudanese government. your government is crippled in debts. i like the smile, but you've nothing to smile about. by the way, you are forgetting that the npc, the chinese state owned company, is in south sudan. the malaysian oil state owned company is in south sudan. oh, believe me, i'm not forgetting. i'm also very aware when people look at investing in your oil business, they see nothing but danger, risk, insecurity. let me tell you it is actually the opposite. what we have decided so far, the president of the republic decreed a petroleum security. three layers that is responsible for the protection of oil workers and also oilfields. oilfields, as we speak now, they are 100% secure. the kidnapping that happened last year, it was actually a wake—up call.
so that we can beef up our security. what i can actually tell you openly and honestly, oilfields and oil workers are secure. that's why we... they are interested and we are going to reach an agreement on block b—1 and b—2 soon. you're an optimist. let us just assume for a moment that you are right and that you can ramp up oil production in a very dramatic way over the next couple of years or so. the problem with that is that there's been the question over the oil revenues will go, and we know the way in which independent experts have analysed governance in south sudan, we know that the vast proportion of that money will simply go to the elites, the warlords, the top officials in the military and the government who siphon off vast amounts of cash in endemic corruption.
corruption is not unique to south sudan alone. it is everywhere in the world. what we are looking for in south sudan is strong institutions. if we could have institutions that can fight corruption and we are actually basically appealing to friends and partners that, "let us work together to build these institutions so that corrupt officials can be fought using these institutions." why would anybody believe you in south sudan are capable of doing that? john pendergrast, who is one of the most respected analysts of corruption in africa. he runs the enough project, has described the south sudan government as "a den of thieves." he says it's a kleptocratic winner—take—all state with institutions that have been hijacked by government officials, commercial collaborators for the purposes of self enrichment. that is his report and his opinion.
in that report, i... there are a lot of loopholes. he did not do a thorough job in researching. i'm not saying that there's not corruption in south sudan. there is corruption in south sudan. there is corruption here in the united kingdom. even in the us, there is corruption. the difference between the united kingdom and usa and south sudan is because here, there are institutions built to deal with that. and that is what we are actually doing as a government. we have a policy of zero tolerance on corruption, but we have... oh, come on. zero tolerance. with respect, that's absurd in south sudan today. we do. i mean, corruption is everywhere. and just to take one example which comes back to what happens to the oil revenues, the sentry, a sort of activist website looking at corruption, made a special study of what happens to the vast amount of oil revenues which end up going into "security, military and intelligence institutions" in sudan.
it seems it's more than half of all the oil revenues. and according to the sentry, there is no way to discover exactly where the money goes. there is no transparency whatsoever. "the military involves a large and fabricated patronage system. "the military involves a large and complicated patronage system. there is little oversight of payroll expenses with leading security ministries rarely reporting their expenditures. the salaries of soldiers. in many case, military commanders have stolen the salaries of soldiers. there are tens of thousands of ghost soldiers." strong institutions actually fight this corruption. but do you acknowledge that is what is happening today today in your country. given what you are actually reading now, transparency. if you don't have a strong system to even actually look at the budget,
work with the ministry of finance, work with the parliament, so that you know... the ministry of petroleum, it is very clear how many barrels we are producing a day. we know the price of the oil worldwide... the issue is where does the money go? this is where the budget matters. you need to follow this. the minister of finance and parliament so you can actually know and follow where the money goes, because some are actually used for education, health care and salaries. you slashed education and health care budgets in recent years. you know that. and the one budget that has not been slashed, i come back to it, is the security budget. and there is absolutely no way of knowing for most of the money in that security budget actually ends up. stephen, as in anywhere in the world, you must make sure you protect the lives of the people of south sudan by empowering your security force. as we've discussed, there is no security in south sudan today today but let me just... we're almost out of time and i think this is the right time to ask you this.
how do you think the generation, and that your generation, the generation who delivered and oversaw the independence of south sudan and how do you think your generation will be judged by history? well, definitely history will be written. and for us, i participated in the first war... i mean, the second war of 1983. we wanted to be... we went wrong as leaders but we're here to fix and we will make sure that we fix it together as south sudanese. that's what we want a national dialogue. so we talk to ourselves, our south sudanese. we find out what went wrong and how do we fix it. that's why we have an agreement that is being implemented. we need to implement this agreement. and those who are interested in running for offices, whether you want to be president, whatever you want to be... you wait until the right time comes and then from there, you run. ok, we have to end it there. ezekiel lol gatkuoth, thank you very much. thank you.
time of year. we started off monday morning with a few snow showers. plotand a plot and a few showers pushing their way further west. temperatures arejust their way further west. temperatures are just above the freezing mark. when you add on the affect of the wind—chill, cold easterly winds feel much warmer —— do not feel much warmer than about minus five celsius. more persistent showers working from the north sea. temperatures well below freezing to start. heavy snowfall. potential for very disruptive snow on tuesday, particularly for eastern england and
the southeast as well. heavy snow showers continue to work in on that easterly wind. some snow showers in a bit of sunshine, dry wales. a bit of sunshine, dry weather for instance... looking ahead to wednesday, a similar picture. heavy snow showers drifting from east to west. temperatures will be below freezing. cold snow will accumulate fairly quickly. we could see around 10—20 cm of snow, particularly around the east. more of that in some areas. it looks like we could see this area of the pressure bring heavy and widespread snow by thursday. bye for now.
i'm rico hizon in singapore, the headlines. smiles at the closing ceremony — but a reported offer of talks from north korea is pushed back by washington. it comes as the winter olympics, which mixed sport and politics right from the start, draws to a spectacular close. i'm sharanjit leyl in london. also in the programme: two murders as tensions rise at a rohingya refugee camp in bangladesh. we have a special report. the complainants are growing in number. fights between neighbours overfood number. fights between neighbours over food and shelter sees aid arriving almost daily.