China to loan S Sudan $ 8 bln

Officials in South Sudan say China has agreed to loan it $8bn (£4.9bn) for major development projects.

A government spokesman said funds would be used to build roads, bridges and telecom networks, and to develop agriculture and hydro-electric power.

However, there was no mention of plans to build a new pipeline to export oil from the newly independent state.

News of the deal emerged after South Sudan’s president returned from his first official trip to China.

His visit came amid a flare-up in the dispute between the two Sudaneses over the oil-rich Heglig border region.

China imports the bulk of oil output from the two countries.

It wants to maintain good relations both with Sudan – a long-time ally – and with the South, which acquired the lion’s share of the region’s oil production when it seceded in July 2011 after decades of conflict.

Since then, South Sudan’s relations with Sudan have been tense – primarily over the division of oil reserves and the full definition of borders.

South Sudan Information Minister Barnaba Mariel Benjamin told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that the Chinese wanted to help develop the country.

“There are no strings attached to it,” he said.

“You know we are beginning from zero but we have enormous resources. At least if the resources are developed, I’m sure it will be for the benefit of the people of South Sudan, and the region and internationally.”

The Chinese funding would be provided over the coming two years, and projects would be conducted by Chinese firms.

In January, South Sudan shut down oil production, which provides 98% of its revenue, after Khartoum impounded South Sudanese oil shipments amid a dispute over transit fees.

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