SPLA soldiers on the battlefield in South Sudan (Photo: Julius Dada/ChimpReports)
South Sudan rebels have threatened to block the implementation of the Eastern Central Corridor infrastructure projects unless their leader Dr Riek Machar is consulted, Chimp Corps report.
“The Eastern Central Corridor Project will not work unless the SPLM/A-IO under the leadership of Former vice president Dr. Machar is involved for its smooth running,” said Maj. Dickson Gatluak Jock, Deputy Spokesperson, SPLA/IO.
“For all the services or items normally expected or required in the project: SPLM/A-IO which is controlling the large areas in Upper Nile and its resources should not be left out; otherwise the (project) would not be ‘a done deal,’” he added.
The Eastern & Central Africa Corridors focus on delivering an agreed set of activities that will enhance interconnectivity in transport through infrastructure development and trade facilitation.
COMESA, EAC and SADC (known as the Tripartite) have determined that transport inefficiencies and prohibitively high transport costs are among the biggest impediments to realising their vision of regional prosperity and have prepared an Action Plan for these key trade routes of Eastern Africa.
In East Africa, the Northern and Central Transport Corridors connect the people of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
These corridors also provide port access to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
The rebels said the Eastern Central Corridor Project which comprises “different layers that have to be implemented in different phases will be too expensive physically, financially and militarily because all the project sites are fully controlled by SPLA/IO forces.”
For example, said Maj Gatluak, “Inland transportation from Ethiopia and Djibouti to South Sudan and construction of Dry port in Pagak or Gambella, or any other convenient place, for incoming goods from South Sudan would be impossible because it’s we (the SPLM/A-IO) controlling all the routes and bordering the Western town of Gambella in Ethiopia but not the government.”
It remains unclear if the rebels would pose a huge challenge to the regional infrastructural projects.
Any threats to the projects could see regional leaders raise a joint force to battle the rebels.
Currently, Uganda and Ethiopia have the deadliest militaries in the region.
Maj Gatluak said it would be “impossible” to construct the proposed railway line connecting Pagak (South Sudan) to Addis Ababa and Djibouti and the Refined Products Pipeline from Paloch refinery in South Sudan to Gambella then Addis Ababa and Djibouti.
“Without proper consultation and agreement with the leadership of SPLM/A-IO, the following would be difficult to be implemented: Crude Oil Pipeline from intended refinery in South Sudan to Gambella then Addis Ababa and Djibouti, construction of Oil storage facilities in Gambella or Pagak , Fiber Optics Cable from Djibouti to Ethiopia to South Sudan, Electric power supply facilities to South Sudan, Financial interconnection between Ethiopia and South Sudan to allow the utilization of Ethiopian Birr between the two countries and Development of Ethiopian Pagak border area to accommodate travelers to South Sudan and roads construction,” he added.
“To guarantee a smooth implementation, there is a need to involve the SPLM-IO. Otherwise its wishful thinking and all agreements would remain unworkable on papers.”
Trade along the corridors has a positive impact on the region and many initiatives have been undertaken to improve corridor efficiency.
However, corridor performance is still hampered by high transport costs, degraded physical infrastructure and national policies that are incompatible with regional goals.
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