May 23, 2015 (JUBA)- South Sudanese defence minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, on Saturday headed a high level ministerial delegation that paid an inspection visit to Melut town, less than a week after an attack by a coalition of armed rebel forces.
Petroleum minister, Stephen Dhieu Dau, chief of General staff of the government forces, Paul Malong Awan, among several officials and military officers accompanied Minister Juuk.
Upper Nile state information Minister, Peter Hoth Tuach told Sudan Tribune on Saturday, the ministerial delegation visited market area, the riverside where the government troops reportedly destroyed boats used by the rebels to shell and capture the town.
“The minister of defence was received on arrival by the sector commander Gen. Johnson Gony Bilieu and the state government officials. They visited all the areas in town and held talks with local officials and oil workers. They assured our people of the capability of the SPLA forces to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country,” the minister Tuach said on Saturday.
Minister Dau confirmed having visited his home town and birthplace, Melut, and Paloch, asserting that government forces were in complete control of the area.
“Our visit was to inspect the area and assure oil workers and our people of the capability of the government to provide adequate security not only to oil installations but also to the people in the area, ” the oil minister said.
“We assured them of the commitment of the government to protect the citizens and their resources. This responsibility has always been upheld by our gallant SPLA forces whenever there is a threat. They have demonstrated their abilities and capabilities by defeating the rebels of Riek Machar and forces of Johnson Olony in Melut,” he emphasised.
The minister said there was no danger to the oil production in the area because government troops were in firm control of the situation and also denied that armed opposition had captured oil refinery.
“Yes, the rebels of Riek Machar forces have tried to advance towards oil fields to destroy the oil installations and they controlled Melut for less than 24 hours but they were defeated by our gallant forces. They did not advance to where there are oil refineries,” he said.
The minister said he reassured oil workers and denied the evacuation of oil workers.
“The oil workers are there. I met them today and assured them of the capability of the government to provide adequate security. So it is not correct that oil workers have been evacuated. Why evacuate them and the government is control? There is no danger,” he said.
This is the first high level visit after heavy fighting in recent days in oil producing areas in Upper Nile state. It was meant to boost the morale of the government soldiers and assure local population.
Last Thursday the Chinese official TV announced the evacuation of 400 oil workers from Paloch oilfields in South Sudan due to the ongoing fighting in the oil-rich Upper Nile state territory.