KUACJOK - Officials in Warrap state have started repairing a 30-kilometer stretch of road linking the state capital, Kuacjok, to neighboring Western Bahr el Ghazal -- and for some residents, the work is not a minute too soon.
"The state this road is in, it will stop us from having children or it gives us hemorrhoids," says John Ateny, a frequent user of the Kuacjok to Tharkeung road.
"And when your vehicle gets stuck in the mud, nobody pulls you out. So we are so thankful to the government of Warrap state for taking the initiative to fix the road,” he said.
Joseph Gotkeer Tong, the acting director of roads and bridges in Warrap state’s Infrastructure Ministry, watches as around a dozen workers dig and shovel murram -- a mix of gravel and dirt -- onto the road, where a steamroller flattens it.
“This road is very important because it connects to two states and other counties," Gotkeer says.
Warrap state Infrastructure Minister Mayar Deng Mayar says it will cost around 500,000 South Sudanese pounds to fix the 30-kilometer portion of the road from Kuacjok to Tharkueng.
Patching up the 30 kilometers between Kuacjok and Tharkueng is expected to take several weeks, at least. Once it's done, bus fares between the two towns are likely to come down, and that will make road users happy, says Garang Awan, who frequently drives on the road.
Why not pave it?
Kuacjok resident James Gala Malim, is also glad the road is finally getting fixed. But he wonders if filling in potholes and smoothing the road surface with murram is the best way to go about the job, not to mention if it's the best use of state and national government funds. He thinks the road should be paved.
Just slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texas, South Sudan has only around 300 kilometers of paved roads. A third of those are in the capital, Juba, and there is a 192-kilometer tarmac road linking Juba to the Ugandan border.
Minister Mayar says Warrap state plans to repair all the major roadways across the state to ease the movement of people and goods. But he did not mention any plans to start paving roads.