By Denis Dumo
JUBA (Reuters) – The South Sudanese president has appointed a new petroleum minister, removing Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the presidential spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday, but the reasons for the move were unclear.
The ministry is one of the most powerful in the country. South Sudan gets almost all of its revenues from oil and has been boosting production as it struggles to rebuild its shattered economy from the wreckage of a five-year civil war.
Gatkuoth has been replaced by Awow Daniel Chuang, the director general at the ministry, said President Salva Kiir’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny.
“Ezekiel Lol, the minister of Petroleum has been relieved and replaced by his director general Awow Daniel as new minister of petroleum,” Ateny said.
“It is the routine duty of the president to sack or appoint government officials,” Ateny said when asked the reason for the move. He declined to give further details.
South Sudan’s total oil production is nearly 180,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to official figures. But the government is keen to reach pre-war levels of 350,000 to 400,000 bpd by mid-2020.
A fragile ceasefire reached in September ended the civil war, but plans to form a unity government in May were delayed after there was no funding to disarm, retrain and integrate militias and rebels.
It is still unclear when a unity government might be formed, but Kiir has said it could take at least a year. Rebel leader Riek Machar is in exile in neighbouring Sudan, which used to rule South Sudan until the south became an independent country in 2011 following decades of scorched-earth conflict.
(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)