A Japanese engineering contingent has arrived in South Sudan to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the young country and help build roads and bridges in areas with very little basic infrastructure.
Monday’s arrival of the group of 120 engineers from the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) follows the arrival of an advance team of 34 logistics personnel from Japan on January 14, the mission (UNMISS) reports.
By next month a full contingent of 330 engineers will be in place, as will road rollers, excavators, bulldozers and water tankers.
Colonel Toru Namatame, who heads the Japanese unit in UNMISS, said his team specialized in “horizontal engineering” and its main role would be constructing roads and bridges.
Hilde F Johnson, the head of UNMISS and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, voiced her gratitude to Japan for the new contingent. “The arrival of the Japanese Engineering Contingent is a welcome addition to the mission and its efficiency will only strengthen our efforts to provide assistance to the new nation,” she said.
Twenty-three of the 34 GSDF personnel, including a 13-member engineering team, arrived in South Sudan’s capital Juba last month while the remaining 11 went to Uganda, which shares a border with South Sudan.
The GSDF team is tasked with receiving equipment and supplies that will be delivered to sustain Japanese peacekeeping operations in South Sudan.
The deployment marks the Self Defence Force’s ninth participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Japan first dispatched engineering troops to Cambodia in 1992.
On October 14 last year an assessment team from the GSDF surveyed Juba International Airport before deciding to deploy engineers. The team, which arrived in South Sudan on October 10, was in the country to assess airports and roads, reliefWeb reports. The survey team also visited Upper Nile State to assess airports and roads in the capital Malakal.
The GSDF engineering unit will help build roads and bridges. With independence on July 9, 2011, after two decades of civil war, the country lacks basic infrastructure. It is totally underdeveloped and has less than 100 km of paved roads.
Saito said that GSDF engineers will use weapons only when they feel their safety is being threatened as their main role will be infrastructure development.
Japan is the second largest contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping budget, after the United States. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is mandated to have 7 000 military personnel. This is the first time Japan has shown interest in sending peacekeepers to the country.
South Sudan became the world’s newest country after voting for independence in a January vote, taking with it three-quarters of the former united country’s roughly 500 000 barrels per day of oil production.
The split left a long list of unresolved issues; including the contested oil-producing Abyei region, how to share oil revenues and other assets, and how to end border violence. North Sudan which is facing a severe economic crisis and has asked Arab countries for aid to compensate for the loss of oil revenues.
An estimated 2 million people died in Sudan’s 22 year long civil war.