Ramciel, also spelled Ramchiel or Ramshiel, is a location in Lakes, a state in South Sudan, that will serve as the future site of the national capital. It is considered the geographic center of the country and borders Jonglei state to the west. It is very close to the point at which the borders of Central Equatoria, Jonglei, and Lakes, and thus the historical provinces of Equatoria, Greater Upper Nile, and Bahr el Ghazal, touch. John Garang, the first president of Southern Sudan, allegedly wanted to place the national capital in Ramciel during his administration, but he died before South Sudan achieved independence and its largest city of Juba became the capital instead.
Ramciel is about 200 kilometres (125 mi) north of Juba and located on the western side of the White Nile. There is currently no tarmacked road between Juba and Ramciel, but it is estimated that it will take under two hours to travel on a tarmacked road to Juba. Under ideal conditions, it would also probably take about 30 minutes to travel to Rumbek and up to three hours to Wau from Ramciel.
The largest grass swamp in the world, the Sudd, lies in the middle of Greater Bahr el Gazal and Greater Upper Nile, thus making direct road communications between towns located at the opposite four corners of the Sudd practically impossible; thus the need to go around the swamp, which currently makes both Malakal and Bentiu inaccessible by road from the south and west in the wet season from June to November.
The area is inhabited by Ciec Community group who cultivate crops in the highlands during the dry season and in the Nile marshes during the wet season. There are conflicting reports over its suitability for larger-scale construction, with some characterising the area as sunken and swampy and others contending that the rocky highlands can support a major city if one were to be built there. The area is located on the west bank of the River Nile in South Sudan.
National capital proposal
In early February 2011, what was then the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan adopted a resolution to find a new capital for South Sudan. Ramciel was one of the two proposed locations for the site. Lakes Governor Chol Tong Mayay visited Ramciel later in the month to raise attention for its bid to be the site of the new capital. "The late Dr John Garang promised to build Ramciel as the capital of South Sudan and having it here will be a dream come true." Just prior to South Sudanese independence in July 2011, a government spokesman confirmed the federal government of the country was still considering building a new capital at Ramciel. On 2 September, the federal cabinet voted to designate Ramciel as the site for a planned city, to be demarcated from Lakes state. Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the move would likely take three to five years to complete and would be conducted in stages.
Vice President Riek Machar said in mid-December 2011 that the government of South Sudan is planning to build a major international airport in a free trade zone to be established in Tali, just outside Ramciel. Machar suggested that this airport could handle traffic from large cargo planes for which other regional airports are not designed, an asset that would be vital to realizing Machar's vision for South Sudan to become a trade hub in the center of the African continent.
A contract was awarded in 2012 to conduct a survey and feasibility study of the site. The proposed area has been visited multiple times by then-vice president Riek Machar and in 2012 by high-ranking government officials.
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