By Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok,
Dec 5, 2017(Nyamilepedia) — A top classified information has leaked out from credible sources exposing a secretive plan that would be to the detriment of tens of thousands of our rural populations. So far the regime in Juba is tight-lipped although the deadline for the implementation is drawing closer. It’s a massive project, in fact, unprecedented by South Sudanese standards and comes in two phases. The whole project is to construct a road linking Juba with Kapoeta in Eastern Equatoria and then the small town of Nadapal at the borders with Kenya. The first phase is to connect Juba with Torit but still unclear whether towns like Ngangala and Liria would be on the route. The second phase which is the longest, would link Torit with Kapoeta and then Nadapal. It’s expected that Kenya would facilitate the linking to its major roads.
There has been a lot of diplomatic activities between Juba and Beijing that culminated in the signing of a deal by Stephen Dhieu, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in his last visit to Beijing in September 2017. To be accurate, it was a three parties’ deal with Stephen Dhieu representing the government of South Sudan while the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) stood for the Chinese government. The third party was the representatives of the World Bank(WB). The three fundamental points of the agreement are as follows:
- Exim Bank of China would fund the first phase together with the government of South Sudan.
- The World Bank would entirely finance the second phase which would cost more than one billion US Dollars.
- Exim Bank would provide 100 million US Dollars while 20 million US Dollars would come from the government of South Sudan paid for in the form of crude oil.
The World Bank has made it clear that it would not release any funds for the second phase before the start of the first one. Also, it wants everything to be finalized by 31st December 2017. Surprisingly a resistance emerged from an unlikely source in the form of Ezekiel Gatcuoth, the Minister for Petroleum refusing to sign the part related to paying the government’s share directly with crude oil. Apparently, Gatcuoth is unhappy that the road has to pass through Eastern Equatoria without answering the question why not? But it’s understood he would like the project to be built in a different direction which is not hard for anyone to deduce. President Kiir is overseeing the project and is very keen on implementation without delay. Ezekiel Gatcuoth would be made to sign regardless of his opposition. Those of you who watched SSTV three days ago must have seen the Chinese Ambassador to Juba meeting with three Ministers together – Ezekiel Gatcuoth, Stephen Dhieu, and Rebecca Joshua, the Minister for Roads and Bridges. It could be a sign that Gatcuoth has already caved in and they were finalizing the deal. Also, the recent temporary relocation of the office of the Governor of Imatong State to Pageri should be viewed as a move related to the plan.
The part of the deal that’s quite worrying is what the Chinese have put forward as a precondition for them to embark on the project. They want a tight security plan in place to ensure the safety of their workers as they will be bringing thousands of them from China to execute the project. They want to work within what is described as a “Security Box” namely a security zone. In fact, the Chinese demanded the same security plans undertaken by Sudan during the construction of the petroleum pipelines from the oil fields in Unity and Upper Nile States to the exporting ports at the Red Sea shores.
A “Security Box” would entail three things:
Firstly – Clearing the area from any opposition forces which means all the opposition groups in Eastern Equatoria should beware of a large-scale offensive in the new year. Currently, there is a relative quiescence in that front as preparations are underway to deploy enough forces and military hardware in the area.
Secondly – Chasing away our rural folks from the areas within the “Security Box.” It means all the citizens who are often accused by the regime of harboring the opposition, would be kept away for some miles from the road all the way from Juba through Torit and Kapoeta and ending in Nadapal. Without a doubt, ruthless measures would be employed by the government including aerial bombardments and ground assaults. There is no reason to believe that such scenarios would not happen since we have witnessed similar actions in Unity state, Wau Shilluk, Mundri, Yei, Pageri, Wau area, just to mention a few. The government can always justify its acts to the outside world as counter-insurgency measures to maintain law and order. How many international journalists would be there to report the truth? None whatsoever.
Thirdly – As stated above, thousands of Chinese workers would be brought to build the road. It’s very likely that some of the workers are military men who could be used if need be to beef up the security within the said “Security Box.”
The local populations are still reeling from what befell them during and in the aftermath of the construction of the pipelines in Unity and Upper Nile States. Many of the people fled their homes, abandon their farms and lost whatever sources of livelihood they possessed. What is being planned to ensure safety for the Chinese workers is reminiscent of what our people went through in those areas before independence. In essence, it’s a scorched-earth policy in the making.
In November 2016, Adama Dieng, the UN Special Advisor on Genocide warned against a looming Genocide in the Yei River area. And since, little has been done to stop the atrocities against the civilians. In fact, the number of people seeking refuge in the neighboring countries increased dramatically and now quoted as 1.8 million refugees in Uganda alone. Should the above plan materialized, then we will be faced with a far worse scenario than what was seen in the Yei River area. Despite modest tangible results, Adama Dieng warning was essential to draw the attention of the international community to the situation on the ground.
Now we have the World Bank, which is an international institution, about to fund a project that would result in atrocities akin to what was pointed out by Adama Dieng. It’s bound to bring unmeasurable human sufferings and loss of innocent civilian lives. Why would such a massive project be kept in secrecy in a government that lacks achievements? One would have expected Kiir’s Press secretary and the Information Minister to have by now saturated the media with propaganda about the project. The secretive nature of the project where the locals are kept in the dark exposes the fact that it’s meant for military gains in the first place before any economic benefits for the locals and the whole country. Any farmer who has the bad luck of having the road passing through his farm would thank God for being left alive. Asking for compensation for his loss would be unthinkable. Others would fall victims to looting, rape, and land grab.
The so-called Security Box certainly violates Article 54 of Protocol 1 of the 1977 Geneva Convention that states:
[ It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.]
If the WB is unaware of the security plans between the Chinese and the government of South Sudan, then it still has the opportunity to opt out from the agreement. But if it does know, then the whole thing raises questions about its practices and services. Are they solely based on how much profit the WB would get or other aspects like adverse impact on the civilian populations are also taken into consideration?