Juba, South Sudan
I extend my congratulations to the people of South Sudan on the opening of the long-awaited Freedom Bridge. I am overjoyed to be here to celebrate its opening with all of you today. This is my second visit to South Sudan. When I visited in April 2013, during my previous term as President of JICA, the construction of this bridge had not yet begun.
Since construction commenced in 2013, work had to be suspended three times due to conflicts in December 2013 and July 2016, and COVID-19 outbreaks beginning in 2020. I thank the Government of South Sudan, the Ministry of Roads and Bridges, CTI Engineering International and Dai Nippon Construction for overcoming those challenges and seeing this project through to completion. Central Equatoria State and the Juba Municipal Government should also be commended for their continuous cooperation. I would like to express my gratitude to all parties involved for their strong dedication and tremendous efforts to complete this project.
A symbol of the cooperation and friendship between South Sudan and Japan, the Freedom Bridge was named for its three enduring positive impacts: 1) contributing to economic and logistics development, 2) nation building through human resource development, and 3) a symbol of freedom and peace.
First, the Freedom Bridge will contribute to economic and logistics development of the region. The opening of the first permanent bridge over the Nile in South Sudan will greatly contribute not only to social and economic activities in Juba, but also to the stable supply of humanitarian aid to Internally Displaced Persons and conflict-affected people living in rural areas. Thereby this bridge will promote peace and stability in South Sudan. Furthermore, it will strengthen connectivity of East Africa by the international corridor from the port of Mombasa, Kenya, through Uganda to South Sudan.
Second, the Freedom Bridge will advance nation building through human resource development. As many as 200 engineers and workers from South Sudan have gained knowledge and mastered advanced skills, through their collaboration with Japanese engineers. Likewise, Japanese engineers were inspired by the diligence of their South Sudanese colleagues, who showed unwavering dedication to their duties no matter the challenges facing them.
Students from the University of Juba also benefited from the educational opportunities provided by construction site visits and lectures on Japanese construction technology arranged by the project team.
I am sure that those skilled engineers and bright students will play an important role in the future development of South Sudan.
Third, the Freedom Bridge stands as a symbol of freedom and peace. The fact that the long-awaited Freedom Bridge is now open to the public is a testament to the restoration of peace in Juba. I hope this bridge will be treasured and used by the people of South Sudan for many years to come.
South Sudan is now at the crucial final stage in the peace process. I would like to ask all of us here today to take a moment to reflect on the importance of peace and stability throughout South Sudan, and the opportunity for freedom and development that peace and stability will bring.
Now I will touch upon our work in South Sudan. In cooperating with South Sudan for the consolidation of peace and economic stability, JICA has three key priorities.
JICA is pursuing these goals through a variety of efforts including agricultural sector collaboration and promotion of the participation of youth and women in social and economic activities. Meanwhile, the construction of the water supply facility in Juba is on track for completion in February 2023.
In our efforts to promote the peace process, we have focused on the power of sports to unite the people of South Sudan. National Unity Day, which was first held in January 2016 under the theme of "Sports for Peace and Social Cohesion," is now in its sixth year. More than 400 young people from across the country participated in the event this past March.
Mr. Guem Abraham Majok Matet and Ms. Moris Lucia William Karlo, who have displayed their athletic excellence at past National Unity Day events, both participated in the Tokyo Olympic Games last August. Their presence at the Olympic Games embodied the unity of the people of South Sudan. Maebashi city in Japan hosted them for a year and a half during which they participated in a long-term training camp. As a result of this cultural exchange, not only the citizens of South Sudan, but also many people across Japan cheered for the South Sudanese athletes. JICA's cooperation through sports has helped deepen the friendship between South Sudanese and Japanese citizens. We look forward to the continuation of this relationship as we work together to create a unified and harmonious world through a shared love of sports.
TICAD 8, or the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development is scheduled for August 27th and 28th this year, providing an opportunity to further strengthen the ties between Africa and Japan. The three pillars of TICAD 8 are (1) achieving sustainable and inclusive growth with reduced economic inequalities, (2) realizing sustainable and resilient societies through a human security approach, and (3) building sustainable peace and stability by supporting African initiatives.
In following with JICA's vision of "Leading the world with trust," we are committed to the promotion of sustainable peace and stability in South Sudan. We will continue to collaborate with the Government of South Sudan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the aim of a world where no one is left behind.