Southern Sudan, a semi-autonomous region that has just voted to become fully independent, is to build a brand new capital city, replete with modern town planning and expansion possibilities for generations to come, according to a government official.
Oyay Deng Ajak
The Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) Investment Minister, Oyay Deng Ajak, revealed the plans in his capacity as chairman of a committee, which was appointed by Southern Sudan’s President Salva Kiir. The committee has a mandate to consult local communities in the planning for a new seat of government, ahead of the expected secession of Southern Sudan on 9 July 2011.
Oyay assured on Monday that GoSS wants a capital city chosen by the people. “The people of Southern Sudan collectively fought so that we have a capital city that belongs to all of us,” he said. Juba, located in Central Equatoria State, is the current capital of Southern Sudan.
The people of Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from Sudan as a whole last month, according to official results released on Monday last week. Nearly 99% of eligible voters opted in favour of independence – a result that surprised nobody, as Southerners had fought a civil war against Sudan’s central government for more than two decades, ahead of a peace deal in 2005.
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Since the end of the civil war, Juba, which doubles as the provincial capital of Central Equatoria State, has expanded rapidly, in response to post-war demand for capital and consumer goods imported from Uganda and Kenya. This demand has been partly driven by the wealth created by Southern Sudan’s oil production.
Oil production in Southern Sudan currently garners around two billion US dollars per year for GoSS. This figure is expected to rise after secession, due to the expiry of an oil-sharing deal with the central government in Khartoum, which has seen revenues from the South’s oilfields split 50:50 between GoSS and their erstwhile enemy in the North.
Juba townThe oil-induced expansion of Juba has been chaotic and unplanned. It is in this context that the authorities have been making provisions for an alternative seat of government.
The proposed plans for the future capital city are now on display in the meeting hall of the Council of Ministers in Southern Sudan. Last week, the GoSS Council of Ministers proposed two sites including Ramshel (also spelled Ramciel), which was first proposed in 2003 by the former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) chairman, the late Dr John Garang De Mabior.
Ramshel is in the centre of Southern Sudan, located in the border areas of Lakes State, Jonglei State and Unity State. The second possible location – which remains nameless at this stage – is in the Northeast of Central Equatoria State, bordering Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei and Lakes States. Basing a capital in either of these locations would ensure proximity to the principal oil-producing areas.
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The construction of a new capital is controversial. Moving the economic centre of power away from Juba would have negative implications for many businesses and individuals who have already invested money in constructing homes and work premises.
Further complications are caused by tensions between the GoSS and the ethnic Bari community, particularly in Juba. The local Bari community has accused some influential people within the GoSS of land-grabbing.
"Juba is big enough to host all Southern Sudanese."
The Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Juba, Santo Loku Pio Doggale, claimed that Juba is big enough to host all Southern Sudanese, in a sermon on Sunday. The church has a significant influence over politics in Southern Sudan.
However, another Equatorian priest, Pastor Alex Keny who is based in the United States, contended by email that the relocation of the capital would be good for Equatorians, since it would reduce tensions between land-acquiring elements of the GoSS and the Bari community.
The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of the publishers of www.theniles.org
Pascal works as editor and radio-correspondent for South Sudan Radio, a state-run broadcasting station.