Kiir officially opens Freedom Bridge
President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Thursday commissioned Freedom Bridge for public use after completion of construction and handover to the government by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The bridge was conceived in 2011 and construction work commenced in 2013 and was meant to take 4 years but took 9 years due to the conflict in the country and the Covid-19 pandemic, JICA official said.
Tanaka Akihiko, the President of JICA, while speaking at the commissioning ceremony, thanked the government of South Sudan, the ministry of roads and bridges, CTI Engineering International, and Dai Nippon Construction for overcoming those challenges and seeing this project through to completion.
“The opening of the first permanent bridge over the Nile in South Sudan will greatly contribute not only to social and economic activities in Juba but also to the stable supply of humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons and conflict-affected people living in rural areas,” he said. “Thereby, this bridge will promote peace and stability in South Sudan. Furthermore, it strengthens connectivity of East Africa by the international corridor from the port of Mombasa, Kenya, through Uganda to South Sudan.”
Akihiko said the Freedom Bridge was named for its three enduring positive impacts; contributing to economic and logistics development, nation-building through resource development, and being a symbol of freedom and peace
President Kiir applauded the government and the people of Japan for the gift saying the bridge will stand as lasting evidence of their true friendship. He said thanked Japan for being one of the few countries that do not attach conditions to development support.
“Today is a great day for the city of Juba, South Sudan, and our Region. The bridge we are inaugurating has been a project in the works for a very long time. The need for this bridge was identified in 2011 and it was conceived as a unique link for regional integration that would enhance economic growth,” said President Kiir. “To my people who received this gift (bridge) today, I would like to call upon you all to work hard to maintain peace in our country. Having peace will allow us to focus on service delivery and development projects.”
He said war holds up progress and that the time it took to complete the bridge is a clear example.
“To the residents of Juba and others who will be using this bridge, I urge you all to show your appreciation to our Japanese friends who gifted us with this structure by taking care of it. Let us all drive safely on it because it is our new lifeline and gateway to the region. I want the reckless drivers to drive on this bridge with utmost carefulness so that the bridge lasts long,” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, Raila Odinga, the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa and a contender for the Kenyan presidency, advised the government to ensure that citizens and the police become custodians of the new bridge, not the military.
“Guns and weapons are for liberation but when independence is attained guns belong to the barracks, not on the street,” advised. “This bridge here should not be guarded by the military of South Sudan, it should be protected by the civilians and the police. The military belongs to the barracks. They should defend South Sudan against foreign aggression, not those internal problems here.”