By Michael Wondi
Thanks to UNMISS engineers from China, the nearly 30,000 community members of Raja county in Western Bahr El Ghazal, South Sudan, no longer need to suffer during the country's long rainy season. Chinese peacekeepers rehabilitated two vital bridges plus a 40-kilometer stretch of the road connecting Raja to the state capital, Wau. Photo by Michael Wondi/UNMISS
WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – When South Sudan won its hard-fought independence from its northern neighbour, Sudan, in 2011, the country's infrastructure, especially road networks and bridges, were in extremely poor condition.In subsequent years, with help from international friends such as the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), much has been done to enable communities across this young nation convene and connect, especially during the rainy season when roads are frequently flooded.
Recently, engineers from China serving for peace with UNMISS have completed rehabilitating two bridges—Bili and Sopo—as well as a 40-kilometer stretch along the Wau-Raja road.
With nearly 300 kilometers separating communities living in Raja county from Western Bahr El Ghazal's capital, Wau, this, as anybody could ascertain, is a welcome development.
"These two vital bridges were destroyed by heavy rainfall. Now, thanks to UNMISS, they have been rebuilt, enabling us to reenergize trade, have access to healthcare and move freely 365 days a year," revealed Daffalla Futur, Acting Executive Director of Deim Zubeir, a payam[administrative division] located within Raja county.
But, according to Mr. Futur, work remains to be done, especially filling out three dangerously large potholes which have in the past led to vehicular accidents.
For now, though, Mr. Futur and the communities he represents are happy with the ease of access facilitated by dedicated Chinese peacekeepers.
While visiting the project site, Sam Muhumure, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Wau assured people of the UN Peacekeeping mission's continuous efforts to ensuring Raja town remains connected to the rest of Western Bahr El Ghazal.
"Years of civil war allowed minimal progress in infrastructural development, and the country's road network has suffered greatly, with rampant insecurity on the poorly maintained roads negatively affecting economic and social development," stated Mr Muhumure.
"We know that when people are able to travel to meet with each other, it is easier to build trust and confidence," he continued.
"Importantly, good roads allow our peacekeepers and humanitarian colleagues to ensure that people are safe and the most vulnerable receive timely aid. In many areas where roads have been improved, we have seen a decrease in violence between groups and an increase in reconciliation and peace-building activities," he added.
"We will continue to support the government and people of Western Bahr El Ghazal through similar projects," concluded the top UNMISS official in the state.
The Wau-Raja road is a critical supply route and the sole path for humanitarian aid to reach populations.