Western Salvation Highway… Will the Dream Come True?
Western Salvation Highway... A dream that resembles the silhouette of an oasis that distances itself the closer a person gets to it. This is what the Western Salvation Highway is like now. A highway whose total stretch of 1100 kilometers lies between Elobeid and Gineina the capital of Western Darfur state; the highway is intercepted by four bridges between Zalenji and Gineina (Kaja, Tolo, Azoom, and Bari). The implementation of the highway has begun since 1998 marking the beginning of a project that the people of Darfur have given up so many development projects in favor of accomplishing.
But many questions now revolve around the company and its ability to perform tasks regarding the implementation of the highway; monitors say that many complications intertwine themselves with the way the concerned authorities and companies communicate regarding the project and its completion since the highway represents one of the biggest dreams and ambitions that the citizens of the Western part of Sudan have waited so long for in order to connect this dear part of the country with its pulsating center.
Unfortunately; and according to the testimonies of monitors and several of the ministerial delegations that went to assess the implementation of the highway especially in the sectors of Nyala Zalenji and Nyala Fasher which are being handled by Sherian Alshimal Company; despite the fact that several payments were made to the company in order to proceed with the construction of several of the sectors of the highway; but it seems that the abilities of Sherian Alshimal company are not enough to accomplish the construction of the specified sections of the highway the company has been assigned to construct; a thing that led the Ministry of Transport to threaten to take legal actions against the company in case the company does not commit to the applying the recommendations of the committee formed by the Ministry of Transport.
Under Secretary of the Ministry of Transport Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed said that the recommendations of the committee were given to the President of the Republic who ordered to implement them. He explained that the ministry will implement these recommendations starting with the one that dictates that any company with more than one contract will have to choose one contract and the ministry will cancel the remaining ones; also any amount of monetary payments more than the amount any company can commit to use for construction purposes must be reimbursed to the Ministry of Finance; the recommendations also include completing the collaterals the companies have in place in order to set the work back on track; the recommendations also include completing the necessary mechanisms and machinery for the construction of the highway.
The under Secretary said the Ministry of Transport will discuss with the Ministry of Finance the facilitation of the late payments to the companies in order to guarantee the proper implementation of the work on the highway.
Head of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Dr. Al-Tijani Al-Sisi said the Western Salvation Highway Project is faced by many challenges including halting financing and stopping of Chinese loans; two things that have caused the stopping of work especially in the section of Fasher, Zalenji, Nyala. He called on the Ministry of Transport, Sherian Alshamal Company, and concerned authorities to apply the recommendations of the people of Darfur Conference and put all the loans of the highway under strict scrutiny. He also called for placing the offenders and outlaws who sometimes attack the people around the peripheries of the roads especially on the sections of Sherian Alshimal Company because what they do is considered a criminal offense.
Adam Ali confirmed that the work stopped on the Western Salvation Highway because the Chinese loans had stopped due the lack of collateral for them; collaterals the donors and China described as "stopping production of oil and operation of oil companies."
He pointed out that the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the Chinese will help provide a solution for the issue. Adam Ali confirmed that -as technicians- they have been greatly affected.
Secretary General of Darfuri MP Bloc and member of the parliamentary committee to investigate the issue Hamid Abdallah Hammad said the committee will convene a meeting, draft a work plan, and arrange for a complete tour on the ground that will cover all of the sections of the highway; he pointed out that the committee was formed after the minister of transport presented a report before the parliament stating that there are barriers halting the implementation of the highway project. He said the task of the committee is to make sure that all barriers are removed and all the kinks ironed out. After careful scrutiny an inspection; the committee will issue all the suggestions that can help make the highway a real-life project that people can benefit from.
The committee will also examine and verify the claims of the subcontractors who complained that the designs of some of the bridges are not clear, the security state is fragile, and they threatened to stop working in the project if the government does not pay them what is owed to them.
The parliament pledged to solve all the barriers and urged Ministry of Finance to pay the financial dues to the companies. Deputy head of the parliamentary transport committee Yousif Ahmed Yousif said that there are six subcontracting companies after the withdrawal of Danfodio; companies all whose demands revolve around urgent financing and the government's protection for national companies; indicating that some of the owners of these companies are being stalked by their employees because the government did not pay to the companies in question their money.
Ministry of Finance uncovered that an agreement was reached with the Chinese companies working on the Western Salvation Highway and confirmed that all support will be made available for the highway and the development projects in Darfur; minister of Finance Ali Mahmoud said that all the late financial amounts will be paid to the Chinese companies by the end of this month.
Mahmoud disclosed that the Civil Aviation Authority is building two airports in Zalenji and Aldeain and that other companies are implementing a number of streets and roads in Darfur; a thing –according to him- that will help show Darfur in a new form after completing its infrastructure projects.
By Najat Ahmed, 15/08/2012