By Philip Buda Ladu
The long awaited Freedom Bridge in Juba has finally been opened for public use by President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Thursday May 19th 2022.
The construction of the Freedom Bridge started in June 2013 after a lengthy preparatory work, despite many setbacks that the project has gone through since its inception in 2011, the 560 meters long Freedom Bridge is a reality today.
The bridge will now handle heavy trucks that come from the East Africa trade corridor through Uganda easing pressure on the old Gumbo Bridge that had since been the only lifeline connecting South Sudan to the rest of the region.
The bridge which is a grant from the Japanese Government to the people of South Sudan donated through Japan International Cooperation (JICA) is expected to boost economic activities between South Sudan and the rest of the region.
President Salva Kiir speaking at the commissioning of the bridge applauded the government and the people of Japan for the gift saying that the bridge will stand as a lasting evidence of their true friendship with the Japanese people and their government.
“Today is a great day for the city of Juba the country of South Sudan and our region, the bridge we are inaugurating today has been a project in the works for a very long time. The need for this bridge was identified in 2011 and it was conceived as a unique link for regional integration that would enhance economic growth,” said President Kiir.
The President also appreciated Japan for being one of the few countries that does not attach conditions to its development support.
“To my people who received this gift (bridge) today, I would like to call upon you all to work hard to maintain peace in our country. Having peace will allow us to focus on service delivery and development projects, war holds up progress and the time it took us to complete this bridge is a leading example of how war delays development,” Kiir emphasized.
He urged the residents of Juba and others who will be using this bridge to show their gratitude to their Japanese friends who gifted them with the structure by taking care of it.
“Let us all drive safely on it because it is our new lifeline and gateway to the region, I want the reckless drivers to drive on this bridge with utmost carefulness so that the bridge lasts long” Kiir advised the citizens.
President Kiir said that the Bridge falls under their priority of reconnecting South Sudan to region via the road network with the goal of facilitating trade. He said that the opening of the Freedom Bridge is just the beginning of the road to development in the country.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan, Naohiro Tsutsumi said that helping South Sudan is perfectly in line with Japan’s foreign policy for active contribution to the global peace and development.
“I reassure you South Sudanese friends, that Japan will be continuously standing by you and supporting you as long as your self-help efforts for durable peace and nation building will continue and Japan hopes to further strengthen the bilateral relations in a way even more mutually beneficial more than ever” Amb. Naohiro said.
“Lastly but not the least dear South Sudanese friends Freedom Bridge is in your hands, take good care of it,” he added.
He said that Freedom Bridge will stand as a symbol of true friendship between Japan and South Sudan for many more generations to come.