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Squabbles over land and lack of money halt Juba Airport expansion in South Sudan

Written by editor

South Sudan’s central government and the state government of Central Equatoria are at each other’s throats over the lack of progress to reconstruct, modernize and expand the international airport

South Sudan’s central government and the state government of Central Equatoria are at each other’s throats over the lack of progress to reconstruct, modernize and expand the international airport of the Juba, which serves as both the country’s as well as the state capital city.

The Ministry of Roads and Transport of the Republic of South Sudan has laid the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the state government which stands accused at deliberately delaying the airport’s runway expansion, sitting on formal requests for the allocation of more land since for the past year. The runway is due for extension by some 700 metres in addition to which more space is needed to install the approach lighting system, in the absence of which only daylight operations are presently possible.

Also apparently still pending are some construction permits, a mindboggling situation considering that the airport is a key national infrastructure project and being halted by bureaucratic ‘underlings with an agenda’ as described by the source from Juba passing the report.

Other sources though attributed the lack of progress to the lack of money as the coffers of the South Sudanese government have been emptied in the now 19 months old conflict which started in mid-December 2014. ‘Don’t be fooled by their ping pong, they simply have no money. It is not a question of land or permits, if the construction company cannot be paid they will not be able to work. The two opposing sided need to resolve their conflict and return the country to peace if we are to reap benefits from independence. Right now it is almost like during the civil war days. Juba itself is somewhat calmer but around the country it is not good. The internal strife consumes our sparse resources and instead of developing infrastructure and delivering social services the two sides deliver death and destruction’.

A stinging statement no doubt but reflecting the bitter truth, with prices rocketing, the black market value of the currency plummeting and Africa’s last tourism frontier remaining exactly that, a frontier few want to cross. The only remaining licensed operator in South Sudan, Bahr el Jebel Safaris, which operates out of Juba, has repeatedly mentioned that they are looking at resuming safaris and expeditions as of early 2016 but that will depend very likely on a peace settlement before any no matter how intrepid travelers, will take the chance to come to South Sudan.

Watch this space for news updates from the entire Eastern African region.