Jack Kerouac was onto something when he wrote, and titled, his cult novel On the Road: there is something intrinsically romantic about roads.
Roads are movement, and movement comes with the potential of adventure. Roads connect people, sometimes with unexpected outcomes. Roads lead somewhere, though one may not know where, or what one may find at the end of it, or even around the next corner.
Fortunately, residents in Maridi will be aware that the 140 kilometers of road that have just been rehabilitated by Bangladeshi engineers will take them to their state capital Yambio, and a lot quicker than it used to.
“I am very happy to see this happening, it’s a blessing for all of us. In my case, it will mean that I can boost sales of my produce at different markets, including the one in Yambio,” said Awate Suzan, a clearly elated farmer living in the fine village of Manikakara, along the now magnificent-looking artery.
Good work takes time to finish, even for professional engineering troops from Bangladesh serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and equipped with heavy bulldozers and other road-constructing machinery. Their rehabilitation efforts commenced in December, and on 15 March the road could be, symbolically, handed over to the authorities and citizens of Maridi.
“A completed road is a good road, and a good road is a source of life. A real lifeline, actually, giving our people easier access to schools, health services and everything else they need,” said Anna Tuna, Minister of Roads and Bridges in Western Equatoria State.
And lifelines roads are, also literally speaking. Without them, humanitarian actors would be unable to deliver their assistance, and creating a conducive environment for such aid to reach those in need is part of the UNMISS mandate.
“A couple of years ago, the Mission leadership decided to make a concerted effort to improve roads, primarily main supply routes, across the country. Decent roads not only enable vital humanitarian work, but also stimulate trade and intercommunal interaction to accelerate development,” said Anthony Ampofo, a representative of the peacekeeping mission, explaining the bigger picture.
Jubilant the crowd at the handover ceremony was, but they may want to save some of their rejoicing for the culmination of this particular roadwork: the completion of the rest of the route to the capital Juba.
The Bangladeshi engineers have just begun the maintenance and upgrade work of the 180 kilometer stretch from Tambura to Juba. Once it’s been done, the time it will take to travel the 460 kilometers from Yambio to Juba will be reduced by almost a full day.