Cablegate: Usaid and Goss Open New Roads, Local Authorities Criticize


DE RUEHKH #0359/01 0711009
P 111009Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: On Thursday, March 6 and Friday, March 7 USAID,
Consulate General Juba, and the Government of Southern Sudan
commemorated the groundbreaking of two new road projects to help
rebuild infrastructure in Southern Sudan. The combined projects
will cost in excess of $100 million and will connect major cities
and trading centers in the south. Local authorities in Western
Equatoria State criticized the GoSS for not responding to their
desires on the routing of their new road. End Summary.

SISP Project Gets Underway
2. The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) have jointly identified
the heavily traveled road between Juba and Nimule as the first
priority for investment under USAID's Sudan Infrastructure Services
Project (SISP). SISP aims to build and rehabilitate critical
infrastructure that will restore basic services, build markets and
consolidate peace. The Nimule road is the most direct route between
Juba and the important trade hubs of Nairobi, Kampala and Mombasa.
Improving the road will significantly benefit the markets and
economy of Southern Sudan.

3. The planned development of the 192-kilometer road starts with
demining, emergency repairs to severely deteriorated and failing
bridges, and re-grading and maintenance of the existing roadbed. A
topographical and geophysical survey, replacement of seven bridges
and design and construction of a new paved road will follow. USAID
already has obligated over $26 million of the estimated $70 million
required for roadway repair and reconstruction. It is anticipated
that additional funds will be provided in order to support the rapid
development of the project. Construction will require 16 to 20
months to complete once the design-build contractor is mobilized.

GoSS Touts Peace Dividend
4. The March 6 inauguration of this project was overseen by
President of the Southern Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit, who
participated despite a heavy schedule that required him to leave
directly after the ceremony for Khartoum. Consul General
Christopher Datta was a keynote speaker. He was told by members of
Kiir's delegation that the President was making this a major media
event in order to demonstrate the peace dividend the CPA is bringing
to Southern Sudan. Southern television and radio gave the event
extensive coverage, including broadcast of large portions of CG
Datta's speech touting U.S. cooperation with the GoSS and support
for the CPA.

Yambio-Tambura Road Project Kickoff
5. The next day saw a similar ground breaking ceremony for the
Yambio-Tambura road, part of a corridor that will eventually connect
Juba to Wau via Yambio. This project also aims to build and
rehabilitate critical infrastructure that will help to restore basic
services, build markets, and consolidate peace. The Yambio-Tambura
road runs parallel to two international borders - Central African
Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo - through the state of
Western Equatoria, often considered the "bread basket" of Southern
Sudan. The road reconstruction will increase food security, and
accelerate trade and economic growth.

6. The planned development of the 185 kilometer road includes
de-mining, rehabilitation of four bridges, and construction of
six-meter-wide, all-weather gravel road at a cost of about $28
million. Construction of the Yambio-Tambura road supports the USG's
overall objective to improve access to infrastructure, support the
safe return and reintegration of internally displaced people and
refugees, generate employment, and develop local capacity.

Local Officials Voice Discontent
7. This second event was officiated by the Minister of Roads and
Transportation and the Minister of Housing, Lands and Public
Utilities. The Acting Governor of Western Equatoria State
represented local authorities. Although the community pulled out
all the stops to commemorate the event with music and the slaughter
of a bull, there was a great deal of local unhappiness concerning
the route the new road would take, and the Acting Governor made the
community's feelings publicly known in his speech, heavily
criticizing the central government for not listening or responding
to the needs of his constituency. Instead of being an event to show
how the GoSS is helping and providing for local communities, as
intended, it rather had the opposite effect of opening the
government to criticism for not being sensitive to local interests.
The local population expressed dismay that there is no plan for
construction of feeder roads that would open markets in CAR and
Congo to local farmers.

8. Congen Datta and GoSS officials made the point in return that
this project was just a beginning and was meant to create a central

road infrastructure that would allow for the subsequent construction
of feeder roads. This did not seem to mollify the Acting Governor,
however. In subsequent talks USAID promised to consider addition
work on the project that would build some basic feeder roads to the
desired locations.

9. The central government officials were clearly taken aback by the
criticism they received in what they expected to be a love fest over
the building of the new road. It is indicative of the need for the
GoSS to work much harder to plug into the needs of local communities
and to better communicate GoSS plans for the South. This gap and
mistrust will have obviously implications for the 2009 elections if
the SPLM doesn't tend to its constituents. The design of the road
is probably correct, but the GoSS Ministers should have been aware
of local opposition to the plan and have been better prepared to
deal with local concerns. Southern unity depends on local
perceptions that the GoSS listens to them. President Kiir seems to
recognize this, and in a speech March 10 at the 5th Annual Southern
Sudan Governors Conference he said, "Frankly speaking, what we are
seeing and experiencing is a huge GoSS structure far away from the
people. This requires us to critically rethink the way we have been
operating as a level of government within a decentralized system.
This may further require us to rethink matters not only in terms of
power and intergovernmental linkages but also in terms of allocation
of resources to the other levels of government."


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