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South Sudan cabinet split over Nile River dredging proposal

Posted on July 18, 2022

July 16, 2022 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s top leaders are currently divided over proposals to dredge tributaries of the Nile River, raising fears such differences could spark unrest and an outbreak of conflict in the country.

While President Salva Kiir is opposed to dredging of the river, his deputy Riek Machar and a host of senior government officials support of the initiative.

President Kiir recently formed a public awareness and consultation committee to gather views of national and international experts to measure the advantages and disadvantages of dredging the river of weeds and mud that have blocked the smooth flow of the Nile waters.

While speaking at a recent public consultation on Nile water resources management, Machar said cited the history of dredging and argued that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

The armed opposition leader declared that he was one of the supporters of the dredging, downplaying fears that the activity could be harmful.

“So, you don’t use us as rubber stump to say stop dredging. None of us here, Ministers, none of them has said that you stop it,” explained Machar.

“Let us change our mindset about dredging. The past history tells us that it has already been done. Why does it become a big issue now when we are in difficulties? We are unable to construct roads now, rails, because of its expenses. If we can make use of our rivers in transportation, why cannot we do it when we know the disadvantages, are lesser than the advantages we get in doing it,” he added.

For his part, Vice President Taban Deng Gai urged the ministries of Environment, Water and Irrigation and Transport to form a technical committee, dispatch it to Unity State to start the river clearing initiative.

“You the three ministries, the environment, Water and then Transport, three of you, please just form your technical committee and send technical people to Unity, let them go and asses,” explained Taban.

He added, “Study what to do so that we make really use of our rivers in future so that the boat can push, it is very urgent please, very urgent not only to people of Bentiu. See the machines, are they really sophisticated or they are just normally machines then you take over, clean the river meanwhile you do our sophisticated social assessment impact”.

He said the people of Unity State are only demanding for cleaning of Rivers and not dredging.

“What we need as people of Unity State is just cleaning of the river. Clean that River so that boat can push until you come to that sophisticated stage you call dredging. Clean the river please, this cleaning of the river started during my time when I was governor of Unity State, they (machines) were brought to me and I am told they are donations of Egypt.”

He said the suggestion to move people to higher ground is not an appropriate solution.

“These are about 2 or 3 million, where do we take them to and who will accept them? The displaced Dinka Bor came to Equatoria, but we are still solving their problem up today,” he asked.

Taban said the people who took dredging upon their hands and invaded the Nam River were expressing their views.

“That place has crocodiles, if you see then jumping there, they are expressing their views of course they have been told that the government has stopped dredging of the river. I want to talk about the history of clearing the river. Babur used to come from Kosti; it goes to Malakal, goes to Nasir, Akobo and goes to Pibor,” said the vice president.

“Now, who is there in South Sudan who will think that Babur can go to Pibor, Babur used to go to Gambella, these are our baburat. They cannot go there now … so, please I appeal to the three ministries to help those people out, they are really suffering,” Taban added.

For his part, Vice President for Economic Cluster James Wani Igga slammed people framing Machar as someone supporting dredging because he comes from Bentiu and said that they are supporting dredging and they don’t care where they come from.

“We are scared for no reason comrades. These issues are very important if we don’t say them, they will never be said again and I am happy that Dr. Riek is saying it and don’t take his statement because he is coming from Bentiu and it is the people of Bentiu who are drowning, what we saw, no,” Igga said.

“I am supporting dredging, am I coming from Bentiu? But is because of the welfare of our people, we don’t care you come from which community; facts must be said we should not associate with, and this one is becoming politics. We must rescue the people of Panyijiar, we must rescue the people of Bor and the rest of Jonglei,” he added.

For his part, Makuei who is also the official government spokesman said he there is nothing wrong with dredging and urged the experts to present another word that they believe can replace the dredging which he said has become problematic without being correctly understood.

“What are your appropriate words to replace (dredging) because you have stated that you are stopping the (dredging), isn’t? But we are not stopping the dredging,” said Makuei.

He added, “We agree for the cleaning and clearance of the rivers and for sustainable dredging. This is our position”.


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