YUMBE. Morta bridge on river Kaya at Uganda-South Sudan border that has been under construction for the last 7 years has been completed.
The bridge is now awaiting official commissioning. Its construction commenced in 2013 but stalled due to lack of money.
Uganda and South Sudan had signed an agreement to construct the bridge at Shs1.6 billion to be shared and according to the deal, South Sudan also agreed to construct a road linking it to Uganda.
But South Sudan failed to honour its share of the cost at the time following the war that broke up between soldiers led by then former vice president Dr Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir.
The first phase of the project was awarded to Ms Dach Engineering company at the cost of shs 1.6billion with funding from Peace Recovery and Development Plan(PRDP) but the work on the bridge stalled due to lack of funds.
Later, Yumbe district secured shs1.4billion from Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP) to complete the project and it was contracted to Uganda Martyrs Housing Construction Company.
With the completion of the bridge, many people have started using the route to cross to both South Sudan and Uganda but the road network on the South Sudan side is very poor.
Mr Noah Achikule an elder in Kei sub county said many traders have been losing their goods and lives on the river as they cross directly in the water.
“We have been waiting for this opportunity because it has been difficult to cross the river, especially when it is flooded. This program of DRDIP for the completion of the project came timely", Achikule said.
He added; "When the refugees were crossing the river during those hard times, it was very miserable. You would see a pregnant mother sitting on a tied jerrican to cross the river to go to Bidibidi refugee settlement in Yumbe district."
Mr Cosmas Taban an elder from Kayoki in South Sudan said the poor road network poses a lot of challenges in accessing social services in the country.
"We began the struggle of having a road connecting to the river in 1978 but the Anyanya war disorganised everything since there was no business. We are proud of the Uganda government for opening us the road from Rodo in Kei sub county up to river Kaya but we are dreaming and thinking of constructing the road on the South Sudan side", he said.
"We have lobbied and accepted this bridge and road project so that we are able to prosper in business. This togetherness is not to create problems but to bring unity and development," he added.
Mr Morris Kenyi, the commissioner for Lanya county in South Sudan said
South Sudan is struggling to attain a socio-economic transformation through the construction of better roads.
He said the former governor for Central Equotorial state Mr Clement Wani tried to support the construction of the bridge but didn't finish.
"We have a plan for this road because it's a busy road. What we are going to do is to open the road from river Kaya bridge and it will connect to the city of Juba. This is a flat, shortest route about 100km to Juba city in which its Construction can't face major challenges," he said.
He said they have a good relationship with Uganda and once the road is opened, cross border business can boom.
Yumbe District chairperson Mr Yassin Taban said the development would pave way for smooth transportation and marketing of goods between the two countries.
“We should bury all political, cultural and border differences and focus on cross-border trade for the good of the two countries. This will even increase the revenue base for the two countries,” Yassin said.