When South Sudan won independence almost a decade ago, it inherited an infrastructure devastated by civil war. Government buildings, power and water supplies as well as roads were destroyed.
The country’s climate hasn’t helped the process of rebuilding in the wake of a peace deal. Heavy floods often leave roads impassable during the long rainy season, freezing travel, trade, and efforts to build peace.
As part of its mandate to protect civilians and build peace in the world’s newest nation, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan is stepping up with a major project to rehabilitate 3200 kilometers of roads during the dry season.
“I believe this work will make a huge difference to peoples’ lives,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer, at a press conference in Juba.
“It provides access to services, increases trade between areas which brings down the cost of goods in the market, creates jobs and contributes to economic growth. Through roads, people from different communities communicate with each other, building trust and deterring conflict.”
Peacekeeping engineers from Bangladesh, China, Korea, Thailand, India and Pakistan will carry out the work in coordination with the World Food Programme.
The project includes constructing a ring road linking Bor, Waat, Akobo and Pibor in the troubled Jonglei region of South Sudan where there is rising tension between different ethnic groups. Combined with plans by Ethiopia to construct a road to Gambella, this will provide better connections and trade between communities within Jonglei as well as across the border.
The engineers will also assist with plans to open the border between South Sudan and its northern neighbour Sudan by improving roads between Renk and Aweil and crossing points.
“I can’t overestimate or overstate the importance of roads to South Sudan,” said David Shearer. “When South Sudan gained its independence, it received a very poor legacy in terms of roads. By improving roads, we are able to improve economic development as we move forward with peace.”
The project has the full support of the Government which has expressed its appreciation for UNMISS’ efforts to support development, employment, and the peace process through a better road network.