By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, ETN Africa Correspondent
Information was received from Juba, South Sudan’s capital, that in a government reshuffle, a new stand-alone Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Conservation was created by presidential decree yesterday afternoon.
While no ministerial appointments have been made as of yet, a total of 6 new ministries was reportedly created.
South Sudan in December last year descended into a near civil war situation, with thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, and as recently reported here were tourism facilities in some of the parks, in particular the Boma National Park, looted and destroyed, literally killing off tourism which at best was fledgling before the outbreak of hostilities and at worst almost nonexistent vis-a-vis real numbers.
South Sudan has several national parks, the world’s largest wetland known as the Sudd and the White Nile, also known locally as Bahr el Jebel, running through the entire country from the border with Uganda to the border with the Republic of the Sudan.
The migration from Boma and the Sudd to Bandingilo National Park where once a year the massive herds of white eared kobs, Tiang and Mongella gazelles congregate, can according to Bahr-el-Jebel Safaris website number up to two million animals ( www.bahr-el-jebel-safaris.com ) and will be the country’s number one tourism attraction once peace is restored, security of visitors assured and the red tape still in place when entering the country reduced to make visits by high spending tourists “easy.”
For now though, even granted that the political will is there to make tourism a priority sector for Africa’s youngest country, facilitate investments, provide a state of the art legal and regulatory framework, boost conservation capacity and create parastatals to market the country, regulate the sector and manage the wildlife resources, it will be some time to come before – unlike in the rest of East Africa where tourism already is a key economic cornerstone – the tourism, hospitality and aviation industry will mature enough to yield dividends, AFTER the internal conflict has been resolved in a lasting fashion.