OpEd, Politics

Policy Brief on the Upgrading of Juba Urban Roads

By Lubang Stephen Stanley


A perfect start for 2024 comes with Central Equatoria State Governor Hon. Emmanuel Adil Anthony announcing that the government will construct and rehabilitate major roads in Juba city and neighbouring suburbs.

A snapshot of the road network in South Sudan

South Sudan became Africa’s 54th country after gaining independence on July 9th, 2011, ending a two-decade-long civil war. Its Africa’s most diverse and culturally rich nation, with an estimated population of 12 million. After independence, the country returned to war in 2013 and 2016 due to a disagreement between the president and his then-vice president. With the protracted conflict, the road network is one of the most affected sectors in South Sudan.

It is estimated that the total roadway length is approximately 90,200km, which includes 14,000 km of primary and secondary roads and 6,000km of tertiary roads.

Currently, the country has only one international highway, the 192-kilometer stretch between Juba and Nimule on the Ugandan border, which is sealed or paved. The other paved roads are the ongoing Juba-Bor highway and the Juba-Bar el Ghazal highway. While the Juba-Yei-Kaya highway has only undergone bush clearing with no clear timeline for construction to start, others are in the urban areas within the capital city, Juba graveled with a few unfinished paved roads.

All the other national and interstate roads are in terrible condition and are not passable, especially during the rainy season. The entire constructed road network is gravel.

Due to poor road construction procedures and traffic rules, accidents remain a significant challenge.

Central Equatoria State Director of Traffic confirmed in a statement to the media on January 3rd, 2024, that accidents decreased in 2023 as compared to 2022, from 191 fatal cases to 161, citing causes including lack of compliance, discipline, and driving under the influence of alcohol.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit, in 2018, while attending the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), made a fundamental policy statement that the government will allocate oil proceeds for road construction and rehabilitation. This snapshot explains why the announcement by the governor is timely and the most needed news.

The state of road connectivity in Juba City Council and neighboring suburbs of Juba County

Since 2005, the Juba City Council has faced a challenge in terms of access within the city and suburbs due to poor road networks. However, over time, the government made gradual improvements to the roads. The capital city, the host and image of the state and national government, portrays lower standards for cities due to underdeveloped roads. With Governor Adil’s announcement in January to construct and rehabilitate major roads in Juba city and neighboring suburbs, the capital might pose a positive image and representation that the President of the Republic South Sudan Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) led imitative.

The impact of the statement on enhancing economic development

  • Improve security: road connectivity comes with critical advantages, including easy access to areas and improvement in the security of the regions, as criminal activities will be reduced.
  • Reducing accidents: opening roads within the city will help reduce traffic on the main roads, and accidents will reduce, as statistics suggest accidents increased in 2023 as compared to 2022 by 187 cases. The Director of the Central Equatoria State Traffic Department attributed the accidents to a lack of respect for traffic rules, over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, etc.
  • Reducing traffic jams on highways and access to areas within the Juba City Council (JCC) have been hampered by road connectivity and areas outside JCC. In 2021, the national Ministry of Roads and Bridges and JCC planned to open alternative roads to the Gudele residential area, Check Point to Juba, and Juba International Airport via Referendum Road and Gudele. If the plan is well incorporated into this forthcoming rehabilitation, the usual traffic congestion will be reduced, and time spent on the roads will be reduced as well.
  • Cost of transportation: The transport cost of the commonly known transport vans (taxis and rickshaws) keeps increasing depending on fuel increases and long traffic waits, especially during peak times. Opening these roads will cease the abnormal increase in costs for ordinary citizens.
  • Employment opportunities in the city: The majority of the population in South Sudan is youth, estimated at 70%, and unemployment in the country is estimated at 13.5%, according to the World Bank. This justifies the high criminal rates and the commonly known groups of Torontos, etc. This construction and rehabilitation may be a source of employment for youth, which will reduce criminal activities during and after construction.

Factors to consider while implementing the road construction in Juba. 

  • Locations: The government, while enhancing rehabilitations, should consider access to congested locations both in JCC and outside JCC. For example, access to Gudele Road and Gumbo Shirikat Road has no alternative road, causing traffic congestion.
  • Economic connections, market areas, and taxi parks are critical factors that, if well-tackled, could lead to economic improvements.
  • Highly populated areas, including fast-growing urban residences, could top the list. For example, Gudele, Gurei, Gumbo Shirikat, Munuki, Kator Bock, Juba Block, Lemon Gaba, Kapuri Moroyok, etc., have a high potential for city growth. Only road connections affect the areas negatively.
  • Drainage: For a road to be called an excellent one, the drainage system should be well constructed, especially in a city that reduces waterlogging. While embarking on this construction, the engineering units must design an urban road with an excellent drainage system for the road to stay longer than rushing to open roads, which could negatively affect residents.
  • Consider open competitive bidding to procure contractors and consultants for accountability purposes. Since the establishment of the government in 2005, there has yet to be clear transparency in handling massive procurements, apart from roads supported by development partners like Juba-Nimule Road. The Ministry of Roads and Bridges, in this case, needs to step up to start practicing transparency in handling this infrastructure development by using the Public Procurement and Asset Act (2018) and the Public Finance Management Act 2015 to define clearly how public procurements and financial services are to be handled, taking into consideration clear transparency and accountability procedures.

Policy recommendations

  • Stakeholders/Public Participation: The government needs to try as much as possible to engage all stakeholders, including the quarter councils, local leaders (chiefs), and the affected rightsholders, to ensure an inclusive decision-making process.
  • Environmental, Social, and Impact Assessment (ESIA) to mitigate the effect of the construction on the environment. Many times, public works are rushed without the proper involvement of the technocrats, resulting in poor drainage; for example, due to the recently constructed road to Gudele Hospital, many homes were flooded during the rainy season by inferior drainage system lines, which affected the residential area. Similarly, due to inadequate environmental impact assessments and feasibility studies, Juba-Bar Ghazal Road was washed away.
  • Relocation and resettlement: In the statements, the public is warned to evacuate within 72 hours, which is very positive from the state authority; however, what about those waiting to be resettled from housing? It’s essential to ensure that the government considers the safety of its citizens first. Hence, there is a need to engage the Ministry of Housing to ensure those waiting for resettlement are acted upon as soon as possible.
  • Consider access to public institutions like schools, hospitals, playing grounds, markets, etc. Some public institutions lack access roads, and children find it challenging to go to school during rainy seasons, which also applies to PHCCs and hospitals.
  • Use the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) and the Public Finance Act (2018) to guide the procurement of contracts to minimize monopoly and single-source agreements, usually characterized by corruption, slow work progress, and compromised quality roads.
  • Media engagement as a tool for sensitization and information dissemination. The Ministry of Roads and Bridges, including the authorities concerned, should try as much as possible to sensitize the citizens living in Juba through media channels. The ministry can do radio talk shows, press releases, and media briefs, and use social media platforms to share information regarding progress. E-government should be the ideal, as traditional methods are not conducive in the current world.

In conclusion, South Sudan has experienced many policy statements that give its citizens hope about the nation’s development. Nevertheless, the implementation of these policies has always been a challenge. The leadership of Central Equatoria State, under the stewardship of Hon. Emmanuel Adil Anthony, in his January 2024 announcement to construct and rehabilitate major roads in Juba city and neighbouring suburbs, will provide a structure with clear direction in implementing this program. I encourage the governor to supervise the project’s progress and ensure accountability and transparency in the construction process.

This policy brief is intended for the people of South Sudan regarding the government’s announcement to enhance roads in Juba City and its suburbs and to keep the people of South Sudan informed about the government’s efforts to provide services to its citizens.

The information provided here is the view of the author, who is a public policy analyst.

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