South Sudan plans to lay fibre-optic cables within two years

DIANI, Kenya, April 1 (Reuters) - South Sudan plans to lay a fibre-optic cable to bring broadband Internet to its citizens in the next two years, its minister for telecommunications and postal services said.

Africa’s newest nation, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but was plunged into an internal conflict in December 2013, has telecoms operators such as Vivacell but lacks the infrastructure to offer high speed Internet connections.

Rebecca Joshua Okwaci said late on Tuesday that the government will lay 1,600 kilometers of fibre across the country and link it with undersea cables via Uganda and Tanzania, at a yet to be specified cost.

“I believe in a year and a half, going to two years, we can connect it,” Okwaci told Reuters on the sidelines of an information communication technology meeting at the Kenyan coastal resort of Diani.

The ministry said at the start of 2013 that it planned to lay a fibre-optic cable that year, before war broke out. Okwaci said the conflict that started in 2013 would not deter the ministry from its aim of linking South Sudan to the information superhighway, citing calm in places such as the capital.

Thousands have been killed and more than a million people have fled their homes after the fighting that broke out following a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

South Sudan is part of a single area network that brings together telecom operators in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and has greatly reduced cross-border call charges. (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Drazen Jorgic and David Clarke)