After it was formally opened on Thursday, jubilant people flocked to cross South Sudan‘s first permanent bridge over the Nile.
The Japanese government funded the construction of the 560-metre-long Freedom Bridge on the outskirts of Juba city.
Construction started in 2013 but was often halted due to the civil war and the coronavirus outbreak.
Prior to construction, the bridge was supposed to be dismantled and moved, as crossing it was occasionally risky, particularly for people.
Raila Odinga, Kenya’s presidential candidate and AU infrastructure envoy, as well as Tanaka Akihiko, the chairman of Japan’s International Cooperation Agency, were in attendance at the opening on Thursday.
The Freedom Bridge, according to President Salva Kiir, is a symbol of long and lasting friendship between the peoples of Japan and South Sudan.
The bridge is expected to relieve traffic congestion in Juba and facilitate trade.
It is believed it would ease traffic in Juba city, was handed over to the government by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
“I would like to thank the government and the people of Japan for this important gift for the people of South Sudan. This bridge will stand as the last evidence of our true friendship with the 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 it. We appreciate this development support,” Kiir said.
For his part, the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, Raila Amollo Odinga says the Freedom bridge will resolve the transport disruption and trade interruption to South Sudanese people and the people of East Africa.
“Every bridge built, is a relationship established. Freedom bridge will resolve fast the transport disruption and trade interruption to the people of South Sudan people and the people of East Africa.
“With this development, South Sudanese will need to access the port of Mombasa or Lamu Just like Kenyan and Ugandan traders need to access Juba. This bridge is part of the answers for the quest of our traders,” Odinga said.
Odinga, who is also one of the Kenyan presidential candidates, his role at the African Union is to guide the vision, policies, strategies and a programme for the development of priority regional and continental infrastructure in transport, energy, transboundary water and ICT.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan, Ambassador Naohiro Tsutsumi asked South Sudanese to protect the bridge.
“Dear South Sudanese Friends, now the Freedom Bridge is in your hands. Please take good care of it. It will work hard for you. It is laying itself down for you like a bridge over the troubled water. This bride is simple out of our true friendship,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
This bridge will be the major link in South Sudan with a total length of 560m, a width of 12.9m, access roads on both sides making a total of 3700m, and a sidewalk.
(News Central TV)