Over 3000 people signed the elders, intellectual’s petition on the Jonglei Canal project.
About 3,418 people have signed the South Sudanese academics and the Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders petition against the resumption of work on the Jonglei Canal and tributaries of the Nile River.
The Council’s Secretary General, Joshua Dau Diu explained recently that they met with government officials twice and highlighted worries about how building the canal and combing the Nile tributaries will drain water from low wetlands and tributaries into the Nile.
The Jonglei Canal was a canal project begun but never finished in order to drain water from South Sudan’s huge Sudd wetlands and send it to Sudan and Egypt for agricultural and industrial purposes.
“Since we heard what the vice president for infrastructure development and the minister of water resources stated in the media, the council has voted against resuming this project. We did not spare our words or stance since they advance Egypt’s views,” Dau said.
The experienced lawmaker, who was detained in 1974 for opposing the canal’s development, said that the issues surrounding the project are “not new.”
“It was the Egypt-Sudan project of digging the Jonglei Canal that was proposed in 1904 to be dug in the heart of South Sudan to drain water from tributaries and the canal because these two countries are in desperate need of water, and it led to the construction of Aswan dam in Egypt and Jebel Awlia dam in Sudan,” Dau explained.
“The proposed canal, with its numerous fictitious and fallacious developmental projects, was strongly opposed by the South Sudanese public in a countrywide wave of mass demonstrations and student protests in 1974, during which a schoolboy was shot and killed by police firing live bullets in an unsuccessful attempt to disperse the protestors in Juba.”
Dau said that numerous individuals were held, including members of Parliament.
“Among those detained and imprisoned were Hon. Clement Mboro, Stephen Ciec Lam, Benjamin Bol Akok, Simon Mori, Gabriel Acuoth Deng, and me, the speaker. “I am the only one who is still alive today, and the most of the others have died,” he remembered.
Dau stated that he would continue to spearhead opposition to the Jonglei Canal project.
Vice-Chancellor of Juba University, John Apuot Akech, said that over 200,000 people signed a petition demanding for a halt to all canal works.
The advertising is part of a larger effort to persuade Kiir to abandon the project.
“I encourage signatures from academics, civil society organizations, concerned members of the public, students, and people of goodwill worldwide,” Akech writes in the petition.
Additionally, the petition addresses the problem of a weapons embargo, since South Sudan presently does not trade with the United Kingdom or European Union (EU) member states as a consequence of sanctions put on individual leaders.
Akech said that the limitations amounted to a trade embargo since they prohibit business-to-business dealings, preventing the nation from obtaining products or services from EU member states and the United Kingdom.
Former Defense Minister Majak De Agoot, for his part, said that the best approach to deal with floods in the nation was to manage water levels when they rose beyond normal, recommending the construction of dams on Fula Rapids and Biden Falls.
These dams, he said, would provide both clean energy for use across the nation and serve as magnificent reservoirs.
Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey, a former Sudanese deputy prime minister, said that rising water levels should be avoided in order to protect human life and property.
“While Egypt is dredging rivers, tributaries, and streams, this project must be halted until more studies are conducted by South Sudanese people to assess the agricultural and hydroelectric advantages,” Akuey said.
Sir William Garstin, a British civil engineer, proposed the Jonglei Canal project in 1907.
Egypt’s government completed a study in 1946, and plans were implemented between 1954 and 1959, during the decolonization process that included Sudanese independence in 1956.
In 1984, in the midst of Sudan’s postcolonial civil war, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), commanded by late Dr. John Garang De Mabior, put an end to the canal’s development.
The canal issue and access to Nile waters injected a crucial environmental component into the post-1983 second Sudanese civil war, which also included debates over religious, linguistic, and cultural aspects of Sudanese national identity.