JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - South Sudanese leaders said on Sunday they were considering building a new capital after their expected independence as the current hub Juba lacked infrastructure and space for new business.
“A committee has been formed to look into a more suitable place for a capital ... that is befitting an independent nation. There are so many things that Juba doesn’t have now in terms of services,” said Anne Itto, from the south’s ruling party.
Sudan’s oil-producing and underdeveloped south is expected to declare independence from the north on July 9 after voters overwhelmingly chose to secede in a referendum in January.
Organisers of the vote told Reuters they had not received any legal appeals against it by a Saturday deadline, clearing the way for the release of the final results on Monday.
Juba, which sits on the banks of the White Nile in the south’s Central Equatoria state, has seen a dramatic but chaotic expansion since a 2005 peace deal ended decades of north/south civil war and promised the referendum.
After the accord, Juba became the seat of the south’s semi- autonomous government, the base of a mushrooming United Nations presence and built on its status as the south’s commercial hub.
The southern government has announced a number of large- scale development plans — including one to re-draw the boundaries of key cities into the shape of animals — that have raised eyebrows among commentators and economists.
Itto, deputy secretary general of the south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), told Reuters the committee would also consider expanding Juba or building a new capital a few miles outside the existing city.
“The city doesn’t have all the facilities that are needed for a capital city — larger buildings to house government institutions, large areas for residential accommodation, areas for commercial activities,” said SPLM minister Kosti Manibe.
Manibe said the committee would consider whether the cash- strapped south had enough money for the move. “If it involves moving out of Juba, this will be a very, very long term issue ... This is not an issue that will be attended to within the next 5 to 10 years,” he added.
Preliminary figures showed 98.83 percent of voters chose to split from the north. Many in the south are embittered after decades of war, fought over oil, ethnicity, religion and ideology. Secession campaigners said the vote would free the south from northern oppression.
“There were not any appeals. The announcement will be on Monday,” the deputy chairman of the vote’s organising commission Chan Reek Madut told Reuters.
Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who campaigned for unity, has promised to accept the result, easing fears the separation could reignite a conflict over control of the south’s oil reserves.
Northern and southern leaders still have to decide on the position of their shared border and how they will divide oil revenues — the lifeblood of both economies.
Additional reporting and writing by Andrew Heavens in Khartoum; editing by Philippa Fletcher