March 3, 2013 (JUBA) – A senior regional leader in Ethiopia has welcomed a proposed road project in South Sudan that would connect the two countries and promote trade between them.
Gambella region’s vice president in Ethiopia, Gatluak Tut, told Sudan Tribune on Sunday by phone from the regional capital, Gambella, that the two countries would benefit from the road as “volumes of mutual trade would significantly increase.”
South Sudan’s minister of information and official spokesman of the government, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, on Friday announced that the cabinet had approved as a top priority the construction of all-weather road that will connect the oilfields in Falluj of Upper Nile state and Gambella region of Ethiopia.
The Falluj-Pagak road will be tarmacked to alternatively transport oil by truck through Ethiopia to Djibouti and facilitate trade with neighbouring Ethiopia, which has a population of nearly 90 million people.
Tut, who also chairs the Ethiopia’s ruling party at the level of Gambella region, said his country was ready to utilise the new road. Ethiopia has already constructed a tarmacked road through Gambella region which ends close to the South Sudan’s border town of Pagak.
Gambella region is predominantly inhabited by Nuer and Anyuak ethnic who also share cultures with their neighbouring South Sudanese communities across the border, particularly in Upper Nile and Jonglei states.
There are also other minority ethnicities in the region which include Majanger, Komo and Opoe as well as highlanders other regions of Ethiopia.
The region also served as a gateway through which Ethiopia supported South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) during some periods of its 21-year liberation struggle.
South Sudan has embarked on seeking alternative routes to transport its oil to international markets following disagreements with neighbouring Sudan over the terms of oil transport through Port Sudan.
The two presidents, Salva Kiir and Omer Al-Bashir of South Sudan and Sudan, respectively, signed a cooperation agreement on 27th September last year which included a resolution on resumption of oil transport to Port Sudan but the two countries have since failed to implement the new deal.
Besides the road project, South Sudan and Ethiopia have also agreed on a proposed construction of oil pipeline from Upper Nile through Ethiopia to Djibouti.