Good morning and thanks for joining me today for this press conference.
I’d like to talk to you first about UNMISS’ road rehabilitation plan. Then I’ll make a couple of quick comments about the High-Level Revitalization Forum before taking your questions.
A well-maintained and reliable road network is vital to economic development and growth. That is true for every country, but it’s particularly important for an underdeveloped and conflict-affected nation like South Sudan.
Without roads, farmers can’t get their goods to the market, traders can’t do business. A few months ago, I visited Aweil, which is experiencing less conflict than elsewhere, but people are going hungry because food can’t reach them.
That’s partly because, in the most fertile places, like the Equatorias, ongoing fighting means that food can’t be transported safely – or cheaply – to markets in the north. But it’s also because of the appalling state of the roads.
South Sudan has only 215 km of tarmac roads. At independence, it inherited one of the worst transport infrastructures in the world. For example, the journey from Juba to Bentiu is 1000km but takes 14-20 days and is only possible in the dry season. On a wellmaintained road, that journey would take a fraction of the time.
Fixing the roads helps improve security, like in the Equatorias, where UNMISS is able to push its peacekeeping patrols deeper and further to deter violence, and give people the confidence to go home.
A better transport network brings people together and helps build peace.
For example, the recent peace conferences that we have supported in Bor and Pibor would be much easier to hold if the participants are able to travel by road.
Over the past weeks the UNMISS, together with the World Food Programme and UNOPS, discussed priorities with the government on road rehabilitation.
As a result, our Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian and South Korean peacekeeping engineers will embark on the Mission’s most ambitious rehabilitation programme to date.
The aim – alongside the government, WFP and UNOPS – is to repair around 2,350 km of roads; that is around twice what was achieved last year.
We will target South Sudan’s key routes, including Juba-Bor; Bor-Pibor, YambioMundri;
Rokon-Rumbek-Wau-Kuajok-Bentiu and Malakal-Melut. Some of these roads were repaired last year, but were damaged again during the rainy season.
Ongoing work on the 150km Juba-Yei road will be finished shortly.
WFP and UNOPS – if support is forthcoming from donors – will rehabilitate a number of other important roads. They will also carry out specialist – and more permanent – repairs on critical roads that UNMISS is working on.
The primary responsibility for maintaining the road network lies with the Government.
But UNMISS has stepped in to help because we all agree that a functioning road infrastructure is vital for economic development.
If the conflict ends, infrastructure such as roads will anchor peace by building prosperity.
I hope that at some point, in the not too distant future, a one-day journey to Bentiu may become a reality.
I’d just like to touch on the issue of the IGAD-led High Level Revitalization forum before taking questions.
I travelled to Addis Ababa at the weekend to meet the IGAD special envoy for South Sudan, Ismail Wais, as well as opposition leaders to express UNMISS’ support for the peace process.
The High Level Revitalization Forum is an important opportunity to bring people together so that we can make progress towards durable peace. We are encouraging all parties to actively participate in the process and conduct talks with an open mind. Peace cannot be achieved without compromise.
On a final note, I’d like to thank you all for the work that you do telling the story of South Sudan and it’s people and to wish you and all those listening on Radio Miraya a very happy holiday season and a peaceful New Year.
Now, I’m happy to take any questions.