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Futures were up as much as 0.3 percent and are poised to end the year higher for the fifth time. Fighting in South Sudan, which exports about 220,000 barrels a day, has killed at least 500 people and led to the evacuation of employees from India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. There will be no floor or electronic trading tomorrow due to the Christmas holiday.
“There is thin holiday trading today and Brent prices are being sustained by political concerns surrounding South Sudan,” Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst VTB Capital in London, said by phone. “We’ll wait and see how the broader market reacts to the instability there as more news trickles out.”
Brent for February settlement rose as much as 34 cents to $111.90 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange and was at $111.87 as of 12:02 p.m. in London. The contract closed at $111.77 on Dec. 20, the highest in more than two weeks. The volume of all futures traded was about 74 percent below the 100-day average. Prices have increased 0.7 percent this year.
West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was up 25 cents at $99.16 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent was at a premium of $12.73 to WTI. The spread widened yesterday for a fourth day to close at $13.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council for 5,500 soldiers to add to the peacekeeping mission of 7,000 already in South Sudan. The U.S. is positioning troops in the Horn of Africa region to assist in any additional evacuations, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said yesterday.
“As the year comes to a close, the risk of an all out civil war that could stymie the country’s production of around 250,000 barrels a day is growing,” Vienna-based researcher JBC Energy GmbH said today in a note.
WTI’s 200-day moving average is $98.88 today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Futures also halted a rally near this indicator two weeks ago. Sell orders tend to be clustered around technical-resistance levels.
“Crude is seeing some resistance around the 200-day moving average, and that’s giving traders a reason not to move too far away from this level,” Ric Spooner, a chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said today. “After recent gains, we are at a level where traders might be comfortable to just wait and see if the news can catch up to the prices. People in the market would want to square these long positions.”
Gasoline stockpiles stockpiles in the U.S., the world’s largest oil consumer, probably rose by 1.1 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 20, according to the median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg before Energy Information Administration data on Dec. 27. Supplies have climbed the previous four weeks to 220.5 million, said the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.
Crude inventories are projected to have decreased by 3 million barrels, the survey shows.
|Former South Sudanese deputy president Riek Machar has told Al Jazeera that he wants to be the country’s next leader, as the government has lost control of Unity state’s capital city, Bentiu.
Machar’s statement on Sunday comes amid fighting which has raged in one of the of the world’s youngest countries for more than a week, after President Salva Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup.
Machar has denied the allegation and accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Machar said he wanted to be the next leader of the country – to run for president at the next election in 2015. He called on Kiir to step down.
He said his troops were now in control of Bentiu, the capital city of Unity state where a military government has been established.
South Sudanese military spokesperson, Colonal Philip Aguer, confirmed late on Sunday that the capital city had been lost to a commander loyal to Machar.
“Bentiu is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar,” he said. “Bentiu is not in our hands.”
The fighting has left hundreds dead and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing for protection in UN bases or to safer areas of the country, which only won independence from Sudan in 2011 but has been blighted by ethnic divisions, corruption and poverty.
Special envoys from the US and Nigeria flew into the capital Juba on Sunday, following on from a mission by foreign ministers from east Africa and after an appeal for an end to the violence from UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Toby Lanzer, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, said the death toll from a week of violence in South Sudan has likely surpassed 1,000 people, though there are no firm numbers available. The number of internal refugees has likely surpassed 100,000, said Lanzer, who is seeking urgent financial assistance from the international community.
“I can’t afford any delays from donor capitals right now,” he told The
The fighting has ethnic and political dimensions, as troops loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battle forces backing Machar, a Nuer.
Foreign governments, including those of the US, Britain, Uganda and Kenya, have been organising special evacuation flights to pull out their nationals. The US State Department said on Sunday it had safely evacuated American citizens and some other nationals from Bor by helicopter, in co-ordination with the UN and South Sudanese government.
On Saturday, four US servicemen were wounded when their planes were fired at in a rebel-held area.
At least one UN base has also come under attack in recent days – with the deaths of two Indian peacekeepers and possibly dozens of civilians.
President Barack Obama has warned against continued fighting.
“Any effort to seize power through the use of military force will result in the end of longstanding support from the United States and the international community,” the White House said.
Government loses territory
South Sudan’s government, meanwhile, acknowledged that much of Unity State, the country’s main oil-producing area, was in the hands of the rebels.
Machar denies government suggestions that rebels have been forced out of Bor, which is situated about 200km north of Juba, although South Sudan’s army spokesman said government troops were advancing.
A local official in Bentiu said the area was littered with bodies following the fall of the town, which was prompted by the defection of a top government commander.
“There are so many bodies, over a hundred not yet buried,” the local official, who asked not to be named, told AFP news agency.
Army spokesman Aguer said “Unity State is currently divided, with the SPLA and the loyalists to the government on one side and those who are supporting Riek Machar on the other.”
With a wave of detente spilling over the Middle East, following the surprising US overture to calm relations with Syria and Iran just months after it nearly launched an offensive war in the country over a few fabricated YouTube clops Looks like Africa will be the next geopolitical hotspot. But while France is the figurehead leading the offensive over west Africa, focusing on Mali and the Central African Republic, where they are “peacekeeping” (with the support of US drones), east Africa appears set for a full-blown flare out, with the Sudan area emerging as the dominant zone of instability and future escalation. Which is perhaps why not only a US aircraft, but a UN helicopter, both came under fire in the Sudan over the past 24 hours in what is assured to generate an “appropriate” response by the US.
First, Reuters reports about a U.S. aircraft which was by gunfire in South Sudan:
A U.S. aircraft came under fire on Saturday on a mission to evacuate Americans from spiraling conflict in South Sudan and four U.S. military service members were wounded.
Nearly a week of fighting threatens to drag the world’s newest country into an ethnic civil war just two years after it won independence from Sudan with strong support from successive U.S. administrations.
The U.S. aircraft came under fire while approaching the evacuation site, the military’s Africa Command said in a statement. “The aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission,” it said.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting that pits loyalists of President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, against those of his former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer who was sacked in July and is accused by the government of trying to seize power.
Fighting that spread from the capital, Juba, has now reached vital oilfields and the government said a senior army commander had defected to Machar in the oil-producing Unity State.
And just to assure a condemning social response is generated, and the public mood against the South Sudan is sufficiently negative, the AP just reported that a UN helicopter in the region had been downed also following gunfire by local militant:
Two officials have told The Associated Press that a U.N. helicopter trying to evacuate peacekeepers and civilians was fired on and sustained significant damage on Friday in the same restive South Sudan state where a U.S. helicopter was hit Saturday.
Rob McKee of Warrior Security said the U.N. helicopter was hit by small arms fire and made an emergency landing while trying to evacuate personnel from a base in Yuai in Jonglei state. A second official who insisted on anonymity because the information hasn’t been released said the helicopter was abandoned and remains unable to fly. No injuries were reported.
A U.N. spokesman didn’t answer a phone call or email seeking comment.
U.S. aircraft were fired on Saturday in Bor, the capital of Jonglei. Four U.S. service members were wounded.
Of course, the question is why the US (and, laughably, French) scramble to get involved militarily in Africa now? The answer is easy: as we reported in June 2012, in the rush for Africa China has a multi-year head start in the colonization race. So what short cuts is a self-determined superpower to do to catch up – why find one pretext after another to send a military force and achieve through brute force what China has been able to attain through infrastructure and domestic investing over the past several years.
From June 2012:
“The Beijing Conference”: See How China Quietly Took Over Africa
Back in 1885, to much fanfare, the General Act of the Berlin Conference launched the Scramble for Africa which saw the partition of the continent, formerly a loose aggregation of various tribes, into the countries that currently make up the southern continent, by the dominant superpowers (all of them European) of the day. Subsequently Africa was pillaged, plundered, and in most places, left for dead. The fact that a credit system reliant on petrodollars never managed to take hold only precipitated the “developed world” disappointment with Africa, no matter what various enlightened, humanitarian singer/writer/poet/visionaries claim otherwise. And so the continent languished. Until what we have dubbed as the “Beijing Conference” quietly took place, and to which only Goldman Sachs, which too has been quietly but very aggressively expanding in Africa, was invited. As the map below from Stratfor shows, ever since 2010, when China pledged over $100 billion to develop commercial projects in Africa, the continent has now become de facto Chinese territory. Because where the infrastructure spending has taken place, next follow strategic sovereign investments, and other modernization pathways, until gradually Africa is nothing but an annexed territory for Beijing, full to the brim with critical raw materials, resources and supplies. So while the “developed world” was and continues to deny the fact that it is broke, all the while having exactly zero money to invest in expansion, China is quietly taking over the world. Literally.
More from Stratfor:
In late July, Beijing hosted the 5th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, during which China pledged up to $20 billion to African countries over the next three years. China has proposed or committed about $101 billion to commercial projects in Africa since 2010, some of which are under negotiation while others are currently under way. Together, construction and natural resource deals total approximately $90 billion, or about 90 percent of Chinese commercial activity in Africa since 2010. These figures could be even higher because of an additional $7.5 billion in unspecified commitments to South Africa and Zambia, likely intended for mining projects. Of the remaining $3 billion in Chinese commercial commitments to Africa, about $2.1 billion will be used on local manufacturing projects. While China has proposed $750 million for agriculture and general development aid and about $50 million to support small- and medium-sized business development in addition to the aforementioned projects, it has been criticized for the extractive nature of its relationship with many African countries, as well as the poor quality of some of its construction work. However, since many African countries lack the indigenous engineering capability to construct these large-scale projects or the capital to undertake them, African governments with limited resources welcome Chinese investments enthusiastically. These foreign investment projects are also a boon for Beijing, since China needs African resources to sustain its domestic economy, and the projects in Africa provide a destination for excess Chinese labor.
|South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has said a coup led by his former deputy has been foiled and vowed to bring to justice those responsible.
Soldiers loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, attempted to overthrow the government of South Sudan, as sporadic fighting between factions of the military gripped the capital in the latest violence to hit the world’s youngest nation.
Flanked by government officials, President Salva Kiir, who had put on fatigues with an army general’s epaulets, said in a televised address to the nation that the military had foiled a coup orchestrated by “a group of soldiers allied with the former vice president.”
The soldiers had attacked the South Sudanese military headquarters near Juba University late on Sunday, sparking sporadic clashes that continued on Monday, he said.
“The attackers went and (the) armed forces are pursuing them,” Kiir said on Monday.
“I promise you today that justice will prevail.”
The government was now “in full control of the military situation”, he said, ordering a curfew in Juba from 6:00pm to 6:00am (1500 to 0300 GMT), which will remain in force until further notice.
Details of the attempted coup remained sketchy, but South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the Associated Press news agency that troops in the main army base raided a weapons store in Juba but were repulsed.
Some politicians had since been arrested, he said, but could not confirm if former vice president Riek Machar – who he said led the attempted coup – was among them. Benjamin said the coup was plotted by “disgruntled” soldiers and politicians led by Machar.
An Associated Press journalist saw heavily-armed soldiers patrolling the streets of Juba on Monday while gunfire was coming from the city’s main army barracks. The streets were largely empty of civilians.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported the sound of mortar and heavy machine-gun fire, saying hundreds of civilians had sought shelter at a UN compound.
The UN deputy special representative for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, tweeted that up to 13,000 civlians were taking refuge from the fighting in UNMISS bases.
Tension had been mounting in South Sudan since Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July.
Machar, who has expressed a willingness to contest the presidency in 2015, told Al Jazeera in July that if the country is to be united it cannot tolerate “one man’s rule or it cannot tolerate dictatorship.”
His sacking, part of a wider dismissal of the entire Cabinet by Kiir, had followed reports of a power struggle within the ruling party.
At the time, the United States and the European Union urged calm amid fears the dismissals could spark political upheaval in the country.
While Kiir is leader of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party, many of the dismissed ministers, including Machar, were key figures in the rebel movement that fought a decades-long war against Sudan that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011.
Machar, a deputy chairman of the ruling party, is one of the country’s most influential politicians.
The local Sudan Tribune newspaper reported on its website that military clashes erupted late Sunday between members of the presidential guard in fighting that seemed to pit soldiers from Kiir’s Dinka tribe against those from the Nuer tribe of Machar.
South Sudan has experienced bouts of ethnic violence, especially in rural Jonglei state, since the country peacefully broke away from Sudan after a brutal civil war.