LUK RIEK NYAK
Businessman Angelo Geng spent two weeks stuck on the road between the towns of Bentiu and Ajak Kuach after his car became bogged down in mud caused by heavy downpours during the rainy season.
“I was stranded because of the road conditions and no-one came to our rescue,” he said.
The roads in the Unity region of South Sudan are in a ruined state because of the impact of war and weather, which means that food and other vital supplies often cannot get through to internally displaced families and communities in need.
The closure of the border between South Sudan and its northern neighbor, Sudan, has also created severe restrictions on the transportation of goods. Communities have had to rely on food and humanitarian aid being transported from the capital Juba through a circuitous route that was also often not accessible during the rainy season.
However, Indian engineers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan have just launched a new project to repair the main route between Bentiu in Northern Liech and Ajak-Kuach in neighbouring Ruweng. They will also rehabilitate roads from the north to the south, between Pariang, Bentiu and Leer. This will enable people to travel between the two locations safely as well as encouraging trade and the flow of relief from humanitarian agencies.
“I am very happy the UN peacekeepers are starting this work,” said Angelo Geng. “While they are repairing the roads during the dry season, this will not solve the problem long-term, we need them to keep doing the work even when the roads become accessible.”
Speaking at the launch of the project, Major Aditya Gaur, the Officer in Charge of the Indian Horizontal Military Engineering Company (HMEC), said the opening of the 151-kilometre route would bring relief to South Sudanese who are suffering because of ongoing violence and economic deprivation.
“It will take about a month to complete the work, depending on the conditions,” he said. “We are determined to complete the project in the stipulated timeframe and devote it to the people of South Sudan.”
“Without proper roads, there is nowhere to get food, businesses will stop, and the movement of the civilians will also be difficult,” said Bentiu resident, Mary Nyakun. “While UNMISS is more concerned about our lives by giving us protection, making our roads accessible will also make an important contribution to our lives.”
Peacekeeper Lomesh Sirohi said the Indian contingent was working under the UN banner to improve the lives of the people of South Sudan. “We will try our best to help the people while executing our tasks and it will be our endeavor and sincere effort to make their lives better.”