By: Eng. Awet Benjamin Maker
Open Letter to the President of Republic of South Sudan,
H.E Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit,
Date: 24th /May/2020.
REF: CITIZENRY CALL ON YOUR GOVERNMENT TO NEGOTIATE WITH CHINESE COMPANIES THE INCLUSION OF LOCAL ENGINEERS & COMPANIES IN THE INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT OF ROADS & BRIDGES IN THE COUNTRY.
With due respect and honor Mr. President, I hope this letter finds you well with your family, it's my hope and prayers to see you and your cabinet safe and healthy as the world is battling with COVID-19 in which our country already suffered the heavy losses of lives and resources.
As a South Sudanese citizen, I'm speaking my professional opinion and the minds of those studying in Asia, Africa, West, Europe and other parts of the world in this writing but first, I would like to take this momentous juncture to greet and congratulate you on signing last year 2019 the commencement of our roads & bridges infrastructure which will connect Greater Equatoria, Greater Bhar El Ghazal, Greater Upper Nile respectively with Chinese Shandong Group of companies which are now on the site of Rumbek-Juba HighWay.
Mr president, African proverb has it that "the falling of a dry leaves is a warning to green ones" what has happened two days back on Juba-Rumbek highway where the rain smashed off the tarmac under Chinese Company has portrayed and sent a clear signal that you and your government "either cheated people of South Sudan by contracting Chinese or China has cheated South Sudan on a multi-billion dollars projects which was not vetted by the parliament on which country should take the contract.
Your excellency, the signature on this modern, reliable, and sustainable public infrastructure is critically important to the East African Region and particularly to South Sudan much needed tarmac roads connectivity. Our public infrastructure will in future help to connect communities, drive our economy and keep us healthy and safe. Given the fundamental role it plays in our daily lives, how we can plan, design, build, and maintain these assets is vital.
Mr. president, “All we know about the new economic world today tells us that nations which train engineers will prevail over those which train lawyers. No nation has ever sued its way to greatness.”
South Sudanese engineers would play a critical role in assessing, planning, developing, building, and maintaining the public infrastructure stock. Whether it is water treatment facilities, bridges and roads, public transit, utilities and the electricity grid, local engineers play a part in all aspects of public infrastructure.
Ultimately, the engineering profession uses its expertise, experience and knowledge to help create a safer, more sustainable, that will accelerate prosperous future development for this nation.
In regard to the above-mentioned subject, we the young engineers in the country, overseas, and other part of the world requested your wisest leadership with your entire cabinet to renegotiate the agreement and integration of at least 30% of South Sudanese engineers to work alongside Chinese companies constructing our highways and bridges. We are very much aware that you created what is called China-Desk Committee in your office in 2019 with main tasks to deal with South Sudan-China affairs in matters related to developmental projects.
Your excellency, it was wrong of you to constitute such a committee with politicians who have no chronicle knowledge of engineering techniques because every technical work requires technical experience and expertise in that field.
Your excellency, although we are still a young nation at global stage, it is however undoubtedly true that the nation is not too young to have not had local engineers and companies capable of taking part in their nation building. The country is having a lot of skillful and knowledgeable technical know-how and professional engineers yarning to sharpen their skills under this Chinese contract. “It is easy for any nation to borrow knowledge by sending her smart students abroad, but it would be difficult to maintain that borrowed knowledge if not properly put to use by that nation”.
In other words, we are posing that a nation can not dwell on hiring experts or skills labor even at the time of maintenance costs of our infrastructures. But when the local engineers and local companies have had the chance to interact and learn skills of doing that job, the nation will use them to maintain her infrastructure. A perfect example is Juba-Nimule road which is now at its worst stage, this can be attributed to not only lack of funds or insecurity in the country but logically, it includes lack of skilled labor force to be contracted by the nation to maintain it. My call is reasonable in a sense that there will be no meaningful training of young engineers as a nation and could not make proper use of them to pay back the nation of her huge wealth spent in studying such expensive professions.
Accountability and Public Safety of these roads in future belongs to local engineers.
Engineering is a licensed, self-regulated profession. Professional engineers are responsible, and required by nation and state law to work in the public interest. Engineers balance social, environmental and economic considerations to find the best solutions to complex challenges. We have a responsibility to manage the risks associated with our work, which would place huge impacts on South Sudan environment.
Engineers are committed to having the skills and knowledge they need to safely and effectively design physical infrastructure to meet the changing needs of citizens. The outcome of that commitment, combined with strict adherence to standards, codes, legislation and regulations, help them ensure that citizens enjoy a high standard of safety and reliability in their infrastructure. From an international perspective, this high quality is the measure of our country both of our infrastructure and of our engineers.
While the profession of engineering itself is largely invisible, its impact is visible all around us. Engineers have the knowledge to plan, design, assess, supervise, build, and maintain infrastructure. From a design concept, through implementation and construction, ongoing operation and maintenance, to decommissioning, an engineer is involved. It is high time your government should feel the knowledge of not only her trained engineers but equally to other professional fields.
As part of a multidisciplinary team, local engineers can collaborate with other professions and specialists, such as surveyors, architects, technologists, land-use planners, natural scientists, ecologists, geologists, archaeologists, economists, construction specialists, property negotiators, lawyers, decision-makers and others. Together, their work serves to plan and develop the best infrastructure for the public.
In other countries like us, most public agencies that own and operate infrastructure assets employ engineers to provide day-to-day expertise for asset management and operations, and for determining infrastructure needs. Public agencies will often use consulting engineers from the private sector for specific or independent expertise or when major capital expansion requires additional design capacity.
Most large-scale construction is performed by private contracting companies that often employ engineers as well. Engineers also play an important role with regulators, ensuring compliance with building codes, labor laws, environmental approvals and other requirements. Therefore, “projects we have completed demonstrate what we know - future projects decide what we will learn.”
Why are local engineers key to quality infrastructure in South Sudan?
Because they are involved in all aspects of infrastructure, engineers understand that infrastructure is an investment, an investment in the economic, social and environmental prosperity of this country. As a result, the engineering profession is committed to lifecycle design and an active promoter of sustainability.
High quality, reliable infrastructure can only be maintained if local engineers and public infrastructure owners understand the full lifecycle needs of their investments, and adopt sound asset management practices. Good asset management which includes engineers and others allows us to measure the condition and remaining service life of existing infrastructure. It means constant monitoring and planning of transportation, environmental, health and education infrastructure needs. There are many factors to think about my letter Mr president if at all you have this nation at heart: the condition of current infrastructure contract, future needs, adaptation to climate change, and future population growth needs to be considered and evaluated as fast as you can with Chinese Shandong groups of companies who won the construction of roads and bridges in the country.
A lifecycle perspective that consistently assesses the condition and performance of infrastructure can save money and improve safety over time longevity. For the lifecycle perspective to work, you need accurate information on the current state of infrastructure, and a consistent set of indicators and processes to assist with long-term planning and this can only be achieved by local engineers and companies who will own the infrastructure than that we hired for money. By combining technical performance measures such as the condition and performance of assets with social, economic, environmental and safety considerations, it’s much easier to accurately forecast costs.
Overall, local engineers would know how to help governments and infrastructure owners prioritize and assess projects and programs that will help maintain the high standard of roads infrastructure in the country, and ultimately protect the safety, health and economic prosperity of South Sudanese people. Taking an experiment from Kenya and Uganda, Chinese companies delivered huge projects and engineers of these countries were working with them to learn skill and knowledge to maintain their put together infrastructures by foreign companies to which we South Sudanese are not exceptional.
On a security note, we have some other minerals deposited underground and if only Chinese are working alone without local engineers especially SSPDF Engineering Corps and National Security, those untapped minerals near on the surface will be an added advantage to them in their 3 years period.
“Infrastructure without nation engineers is like an education system without teachers or a health care system without doctors”
I look forward to seeing you hear my humble call as a voice for all young engineers this country has produced and bear fruit in this multi-billion infrastructure project.
Eng. Awet Benjamin Maker,
Author studied Automation Engineering at Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China.
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