South Sudan to build 'Rhino City'
Ahead of the referendum on independence, region unveils plans to reshape cities.
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2010 21:08 GMT
Much of South Sudan lacks basic infrastructure, such as paved roads and electricity [Gallo/Getty]

Southern Sudan has unveiled ambitious plans to reshape its provincial capitals in the shapes of animals and other symbols found on their state flags.

The proposal, which includes reordering the regional capital Juba in the shape of a two-horned Rhino, comes ahead of a referendum on independence scheduled for January. 

Two other state capitals would be transformed to mirror the shapes of a giraffe and a pineapple.

An official said the government was talking with investors to raise the $10bn the project would cost.

The southern government's own budget was only $1.9bn in 2010, and the UN says more than 90 per cent of South Sudan's population lives on less than $1 a day.

Detailed architectural drawings of "Rhino City" show that Central Equatoria's police headquarters would be situated at the rhino's mouth, an amusement park at the ear, an industrial area along the back and residential housing throughout the four legs.

"It's very innovative. That's our thinking. It's unique. It's the ministry of housing thinking you have to be unique to attract the people," Daniel Wani, the undersecretary of Southern Sudan's ministry of housing and physical planning, said.

Other officials said the plan would bring order to the city's chaotic layout.

"Juba is made up of slums," Jemma Kumba, the minister of housing and physical planning, said.

Basic services

However, sceptics have suggested that the money needed to turn the project into reality could be better invested in Juba, which until two years ago barely had any paved roads.

"It doesn't seem like the government of Southern Sudan should be using its resources or staff time when the people of Southern Sudan lack basic services like health care and water"

Nora Petty,
aid worker in Juba

"It doesn't seem like the government of Southern Sudan should be using its resources or staff time when the people of Southern Sudan lack basic services like health care and water," Nora Petty, an aid worker with the Malaria Consortium in Juba, said.

The region is rich in oil, but poverty and hunger are high after a civil war that lasted more than two decades. Outside Juba, structures other than mud huts are rare, and in the capital, services such as electricity and sewers are a luxury.

On Tuesday, Anthony Makana, the minister for roads and transport, conceded that South Sudan's development was lagging because of a lack of money available to build new roads.

"Every day I receive an average of three to five [international] companies who want to do the roads but I tell them we don't have money," he said.

"To connect all major towns in southern Sudan we need 13,000km of roads ... we need five to six billion dollars to tarmac about 80 per cent of that."

Makana told the Reuters news agency that only three towns had asphalt roads: the capital Juba has 43km and regional centres Wau and Malakal have 17km between them.

If the ambitious plan to reshape South Sudan's cities comes to be, it will not be the first such project.

In Argentina, planners shaped the town of Ciudad Evita into the form of Eva Peron, the actress and wife of former president Juan Peron.

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