"There has been a lack of corporate accountability for transnational companies, several of which were conducting profitable business in oil-producing areas at times when mass human rights violations were perpetrated against the local population, and which in various ways were complicit in these crimes," the UN’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in a 212-page report.
The Transnational oil companies controlled by Asian interests have been accused of repeatedly allowing government forces and their proxies to use the companies' facilities, "in particular, air strips and road infrastructure," the UN commission says.
At a press conference launching the report, Andrew Clapham, a commission member, warned that entities involved in oil extraction in South Sudan risk charges of war crimes if they facilitate warring forces.
“There are thousands of civilians who have been forcibly displaced following a scorched-earth policy, in which the parties to the conflict are attacking villages, torching homes, killing civilians and raping women and girls," said Mr Clapham.
"If you are involved in oil extraction in that area and you are asked to assist one side or the other, you could be accused of complicity in war crimes.”
The human rights commission cites a US Department of Commerce finding last year that found out that the transnational companies, along with South Sudan’s government-run oil firm, have acted as enablers for the country’s bloody conflict.
The US stated that these oil entities provide “substantial revenue that, through public corruption, is used to fund the purchase of weapons and other material that undermine the peace, security and stability of South Sudan rather than support the welfare of the South Sudanese people.”
That March 2018 Commerce Department announcement served as “a stark reminder that the companies have been found, as a consequence of their business activities, to have caused or contributed to the ongoing armed conflict and the violations against civilians in their areas of operation, risking exposure to potential criminal liability.
A trio of Asian entities took over oil production in South Sudan following mass exit by Western oil corporations which ceased operations in country due in part to an outcry in their home countries over oil-related human rights abuses in South Sudan, the commission notes.
“These companies have led the oil exploration in South Sudan from the moment it gained Independence in July 2011,” the UN report says.
One such listed company is the Dar Petroleum Operating Company, which is currently the largest oil-producing consortium in South Sudan.
This joint venture is owned by the Chinese National Petroleum Company, which holds a 41 per cent share, and by Malaysia’s Petronas (40 per cent), as well as by South Sudan’s state-run Nilepet oil firm and its subsidiaries (14 per cent).
The Kuwait/Egyptian Tri Ocean company holds a four per cent share in Dar Petroleum.
The Chinese National Petroleum Company also owns a 40 per cent share of the Greater Pioneer Operating Company, which is extracting oil from fields near South Sudan’s border with Sudan.
Petronas has a 30 per cent stake in this consortium; India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation holds a 25 per cent share, while Nilepet accounts for the remaining five per cent.
South Sudan currently produces a modest total of about 150,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
According to the UN commission, 40 per cent of the revenues from the sale of that oil goes to operational costs and 20 per cent flows to the transnational companies involved in the joint ventures. The government gets the remaining 40 per cent.
However, despite, being the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, a vast majority of South Sudanese have nothing to show for it the country's oil reserves.
The World Bank estimated that 82 per cent of the population was living below the international poverty level in the first half of last year.