JUBA, Sudan – The government of Southern Sudan this week announced a bold $10.1 billion plan to transform the capital cities of this largely rural territory, reshaping some into the shapes of animals and fruit.
The plan unveiled Tuesday in the war-torn region comes ahead of a scheduled January referendum on independence, which most people here believe will lead to the creation of the world's newest country.
The south is rich in oil, but poverty and hunger is high throughout the region, which is struggling to recover after a civil war more than two decades long.
Government officials did not say how they would find the money to finance the project, which includes a plan to transform two state capitals into the shapes of a giraffe and a pineapple, which appear on their flags.
The plan also aims to redesign the southern capital, Juba, and the 10 state capitals, said Jemma Kumba, the minister of housing and physical planning.
"Juba is made up of slums," said Kumba.
Her undersecretary, Daniel Wani, said that planning in the sprawling capital of Juba was "haphazardly done."
As part of the plan, residents of the capital would be relocated to about 10 miles (15 kilometers) outside of Juba in an area called "Rhino City," named after the symbol on the flag of Central Equatoria state.
Wani conceded that the government still needs "a lot of money." He said the government is in discussions with investors.
The southern government's own 2010 budget was only $1.9 billion, and the U.N. says more than 90 percent of Southern Sudan's population lives on less than $1 a day.
Southern Sudan, which is still recovering from decades of war, lacks basic infrastructure such as roads that connect its state capitals. Outside the southern capital Juba, structures aside from mud huts are rare, and in Juba, services such as electricity and sewage are a luxury.
The Minister of Roads and Transport, Anthony Makana, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he needed up to $6 billion to pave 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of roads in the south.
Makana said the project would connect all of the southern state capitals, but he noted that funding is a concern, given that the government has not finished paying the contractors who built 4,350 miles (7,000 kilometers) of red clay and gravel roads since 2005, when the landmark peace accord between the north and south was signed.