June 30, 2013 (RUMBEK) - Citizens in Lakes state have expressed concern over the safety of the Bar-Naam bridge which connects South Sudan’s central state to Western Bahr El Ghazal state to the west.
- The Bar Naam bridge which connects Lakes state with greater Equatoria and the entire Bahr El Ghazal region, 28 May 2013 (ST)
An official at Lakes state’s ministry of physical infrastructure, who insisted on anonymity, told Sudan Tribune that plans to fix the Bar-Naam bridge have been suspended due to insecurity and austerity measures.
The South Sudanese government stopped oil production last year over an transit fee dispute with Sudan, causing a fall in public spending.
The areas either side strategic bridge, that crosses the Bar-Naam river connecting the Equatoria region with Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Unity state, has become used by bandits to attacks both government officials and private cars.
Lakes state’s government has introduced harsh security measures since January when elected governor Chol Tong Mayay was removed by South Sudan’s president, allegedly for failing to address insecurity caused by highway robbery, cattle raiding and inter-communal clashes.
Since Mayay was replaced by Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol the security services have pursued a policy of holding youth suspected of banditry and cattle raiding in three military facilities - Langcok, Ajakangau (Ngatinga) and Pulkuc.
Human Rights Watch, has described the approach as "rough justice" and says that around 130 men have been held in military prisons without trial or access to a lawyer. Those who have escaped or been released have complained of ill treatment and torture.
James Ater Manyiel, a young man from Lakes state said he expected the security situation get worse because cattle herding groups are so well armed despite the governors request in March that all firearms must by registered. The cost of registration - 350 South Sudanese pounds - has put off many people from doing so.
If rains increase, Manyiel said, the bridge will become more dangerous as the Bar-Naam river will rise and more vehicles will use the crossing putting more strain on the bridge.
If the bridge collapses "transport between greater Equatoria and Bahr El Ghazal will [be] immediately affected", he said.