Construction of Freedom Bridge to resume next year
The temporary structure of Freedom Bridge that was completed before the 2016 crisis in Juba | photo file
By Opio Jackson
The Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan has revealed that construction of the Freedom Bridge would begin early next year since the security in the country has improved significantly.
The construction of the 3.6 kilometer-long bridge was launched by President Salva Kiir and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in March 2015. The construction originally planned to be completed in three years has been delayed by the 2016 crisis which led to its suspension.
Speaking to Juba Monitor in an exclusive interview, the Japanese Ambassador Seiji Okada said it was now important to resume the construction of the Freedom Bridge.
“If the construction begins in a full scale, it may take only one year and six months to complete the work,” he said, adding: “Since I came here in November 2017, one of my important responsibilities was to ensure the completion of the Freedom Bridge”.
Five years after the first promise of a new bridge, however, the project remains unfinished; its construction had been put on hold. The half-a-bridge stands as a quiet reminder of how civil war has stalled even the most basic attempts at nation-building.
However, since the final peace deal was signed between the Government and SPLA/M-IO leader Dr Riek Machar, and other opposition groups that ended the five-year conflict, the security situation in the country has significantly improved.
Ambassador Okada said: “I have been monitoring the security in Juba since I came and I believe the security has dramatically improved.”
He continued that when the Japanese engineering team visited Juba in August to assess the condition of the Freedom Bridge and the machines, they found that everything was in good conditions but they only wanted to be paid an extra cost before they resume the work,” he said.
The Japanese ambassador Okada stressed that the Government of Japan was ready to meet the extra cost to ensure that the construction of the Bridge was completed, adding that the extra cost was created by the two years suspension of the work.
“The estimated extra cost is 20 million US dollars and I hope early next year, the resumption of the construction would begin in full scale,” ambassador Okada said.
Initially the construction of Freedom Bridge was estimated to cost 91 million US dollars.
The Japanese diplomat also disclosed that the technical team for the construction of water supply was expected to visit Juba early next year to assess the possibility of resuming the work of water project.
He said the team would review the timeline of the construction as well as the extra cost also needed to complete water supply construction.
Ambassador Okada underlined the need to start thinking of other major projects for future development in South Sudan once the construction of the Freedom Bridge and water supply were completed.