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The European Union Delegation in South Sudan on Tuesday inaugurated a long awaited and much needed bridge in the Northern State of Gogrial. The European Union-funded Kuajok – Lunyaker Bridge is a big relief to the people of Lunyaker, Kwacjok and Kangi regions who for years have been cut off from each other by the Jur River. The 120-metre long bridge, built at a total cost of €5.5 million (US$6.2 million) is part of a €20.3 million (US$ 22.6 million) allocation for construction of 95 kilometres of road in the former states of Warrap and Western Bahr el Ghazal. The construction project is implemented on behalf of the EU by the World Food Programme (WFP).
The bridge provides access to the Kwacjok markets, reduces transport costs and subsequent costs of input supply and production will promote market competition for goods and services in rural communities, increases connectivity and access for humanitarians to reach out to the populace as well as saving travellers going to the State capital Kwacjok 150 kilometres via Wau. School children and the general public can now easily access educational and medical services across the bride.
Despite Tuesday being a public holiday (Eid El Fitr), the inauguration of this first ever modern bridge in the area, attracted hundreds of enthusiastic women, children, humanitarians, state and national politicians including the Ministers of Roads and Bridges and Tourism and Wildlife Conservation Rebecca J. Okwaci and Jemma N. Kumba respectively.
Speaking at the inauguration of the bridge, the EU Ambassador Dr Sinead Walsh said the new bridge is only one example of the European Union’s investment in infrastructure in South Sudan which from 2012, amounts to over €58 Million. "The European Union believes that investment in rural infrastructure is a driver of peace, stability and sustainable development. Better rural infrastructure not only enhances the livelihoods and the living conditions of rural communities which it serves but also boosts the economy. A strengthened economy means better prospects for peace, just as peace is critical for economic progress in South Sudan," she said to a round of applause from the gathering.
The visibly delighted Roads Minister Okwaci described the completion and inauguration of the bridge as a milestone towards prosperity. “The project is more than just a bridge. This is an investment in various sectors of South Sudan including education, agriculture, health, transport and tourism,” Hon. Okwaci said.
According to WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan Ronald Sibanda, apart from improving the movement of goods and people, the bridge lays a strong foundation for the socio-economic growth of the region by facilitating regional trade across the river.
The Host State Governor Victor A. Atem hailed EU for the bridge and asked for more support from state partners in areas of infrastructure development and other social services.
A ribbon was cut and champagne was toasted to officially open the bridge to the public.
Apart from the bridge, with EU support, the WFP and UNOPs have completed the construction of 230 kilometres of road in Gogrial state, Wau, Lol, Twic, Eastern Lakes states (Barh el Ghazal Region). Other infrastructure and facilities, such as four markets, two slaughterhouses (one of them in Kwacjok) and four grinding mills have been provided to the rural populations with the EU support.