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Opposition leader criticizes gov’t for ‘misplaced’ priority

Author: Emmanuel Akile | Published: Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dr. Lam Akol shakes hands with President Salva Kiir during a State dinner in Juba on July, 10, 2019. PHOTO: South Sudan Presidential Press Unit/@PPUJ1/

The government has defended its decision to allocate huge sums of money for the construction of major highways, instead of wholly funding the revitalized peace agreement.

This is after a senior member of the opposition criticized it for diverting oil revenues to support infrastructural development across the country.

In March, South Sudan and Shandong High-Speed group of companies signed a 700-million-dollar deal to be paid gradually through the lifting of 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day -to cover the cost of the road works.

The company has already started the construction of the Juba-Bahr el Ghazal region.

Recently, the Minister of Roads and Bridges, Rebecca Okwaci said plans are underway to build other highways and roads across the country after the construction of the Juba – Bhar-el-Ghazal region highway.

She said her ministry is looking at the possibility of embarking on the construction of the Juba – Yei – Kaya highway.

Okwaci also said that the plan includes the construction of the Juba –Bor – Akobo – Malakal highway, among others.

“We are going to start moving to other highways and start construction,” she said.

Last month, the government announced it completed the shipment of the first cargo of crude oil meant to fund the construction of the Juba – Terekeka – Yirol – Rumbek road project.

But an opposition leader said the decision to allocate 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day for road construction is a misplaced priority.

Dr. Lam Akol – a senior member of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance – argues that government is not allocating enough money to the implementation of key provisions in the new peace accord.

“Which one is the priority? If there is peace not only the roads even airports will be built. So the government must set its priority right,” Dr. Lam told Eye Radio.

Funding the peace process, according to him, will speed up the assembling of forces, screening, registration, training and reunification of soldiers.

According to the National Pre-Transitional Committee, such programs will require a proposed budget of $285 million budget to also cover activities of its sub-committees and the national constitutional amendment committee.

So far, the majority of the forces have been cantoned across the country, but some have complained of lack of food and other facilities -including shelter.

However, Dr. Martin Elia Lomoro, Minister of Cabinet affairs described Lam’s criticism as “politics.”

He said -until the formation of a transitional government of national unity in November -the current government has its priorities -including implementing the peace agreement.

“SSOA should understand that article 1.4.1 of the agreement seeks to recognize that there is an existing government which is being run according to the constitution of 2011 as amended. So we are doing government business.” Dr. Elia said.

He added that the construction of the roads is a strategic move that will contribute to security and the economy of the country.

Elia described the 30,000 barrels reserved for the construction of the road as a small amount compared to the 175 barrels per day -he said the country produces currently.

“The peace is being catered for. But, how beautiful would it be when we actually form the government in November, the road to Bahr el-Ghazal, for example, is somewhere there, and the road to Yei, Kaya, Zaire, and Uganda is somewhere there, and the road from Kapoeta to Juba is somewhere there, it would be even more beautiful,” he explained.

Elia said criticism of developmental programs is “negative politics and that’s not allowed.”

Two weeks ago, the government revoked a decision which earlier entrusted the Ministry of Petroleum with the responsibility of wiring funds into an escrow account meant for the construction of the Juba -Bahr el Ghazal highway.

A cabinet meeting decided to place the responsibility of control of the funding on the bank of South Sudan.

The bank will now deal directly with the China Shandong High-speed group of companies.

It said money generated from the sale of crude oil will be channeled through the Central bank, which will then transfer the money to the contractor, the Chinese-owned company.

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