JUBA – South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Thursday officially inaugurated the long-awaited Freedom Bridge in Juba after nearly 10 years of construction.
The inauguration was witnessed by First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, and African Union High Representative on Infrastructure, Raila Odinga and among other senior government officials.
The bridge which was constructed by Japanese government will ease heavy traffics in Juba city and boost economic activities in the country.
President Salva Kiir said the bridge will act as a link to regional integration that will enhance economic growth of his country.
“The bridge we are inaugurating today has been a project in the work for a very long time, the need for this bridge was identified in 2011 and it was consider as a link for regional integration that will enhance economic growth,” Kiir said during inauguration ceremony in Juba on Thursday.
Kiir said the bridge will stand as lasting a precedence of true friendship with Japanese people and their government.
“Your Excellency the Ambassador of Japan, your country is one of the few countries that do not attach conditions to its development support,” Kiir said.
“We appreciate this need base development support, and as a country, we look forward to continuing this partnership with a goal of getting more done.”
Taban Deng Gai, Vice President for Infrastructure Cluster said the viaduct will not only serve as transit point but a sample of great friendship between South Sudan and Japanese government.
“The opening of Freedom Bridge will decongest Juba Bridge and ease transportation of good and service for east Africa market to south Sudanese markets,” Deng said.
Raila Odinga, African Union High Representative for Infrastructure in Africa said the viaduct will resolve the issues of transportation disruption and trade interruption between South Sudan and East Africa.
“Every bridge built is a relationship established, and freedom bridge will resolve fast the transport disruption and trade interruption between the people of south Sudan themselves and the people of east Africa,” Odinga who is also Kenya’s former Prime Minister and a Presidential candidate in the August general election said.
Tsutsumi Nahihiro, Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan said the donation of the bridge is in line with Japanese foreign policy to contribute to the global peace.
“Firstly, helping South Sudan is perfectly in line with Japan foreign policy for active contribution to the global peace, and with this policy, Japan is willing to help in peace building efforts on the globe,” Tsutsumi said.
“The Japanese assistance to South Sudan toward peace building and nation building efforts is embodied in the policy for active contribution to the global peace.”
Tanaka Akihiko, President of JICA said viaduct will contribute to economic and logistic development of the region.
“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 stable supply of humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons and conflict affected person leaving in rural areas,” Tanaka said.
Tanaka said the bridge will strengthen connectivity of East Africa from the port of Mombasa in Kenya through Uganda to South Sudan.
“This bridge will promote peace and stability, and furthermore, it will strengthen connectivity of east Africa by international corridor from the port of Mombasa Kenya through Uganda to south Sudan, Freedom Bridge will advance nation building through human resource development,” he said.
In March 2015, President Salva Kiir and Japan International Cooperation Agency inaugurated 3.6-kilometre-long Bridge in Juba.
The construction of the bridge started in 2013 but the outbreak of conflict in the same year halted its progress.
After the resumption of work in 2015, renewed fighting erupted again in 2016 which led to the evacuation of the staff from the country, and the work was suspended.
The Freedom Bridge is the major bridge in South Sudan with a total length of 560m, a width of 12.9m, and access roads on both sides making a total of 3700m.
The initial cost for the project was $91 million but in 2019 Japan government approved an additional $28 million for the completion of the bridge.