Preventing conflict from breaking out or swiftly mitigating its effects on innocent civilians by establishing temporary bases in hotspots is a key priority for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
“Our aim is to make sure our Blue Helmets are agile and can respond swiftly in areas where conflict has the potential to flare up,” explains Lieutenant-General Shailesh Tinaikar, UNMISS Force Commander. “So, we started designing our operations around what in military-speak is called a ‘hub and spoke’ model. Basically, instead of restricting ourselves to the more established bases in single locations, we’ve developed a system by which we can be mobile in response to evolving security threats and have boots on the ground where civilians need our protection the most with minimum delay.”
Koch county in Unity State is one such volatile area, where the presence of the mission’s peacekeepers has reduced incidents such as cattle raids, revenge killings and robberies.
During his recent visit to South Sudan, the United Nations Military Adviser, General Birame Diop, travelled to Koch, accompanied by the UNMISS Force Commander, Lieutenant-General Shailesh Tinaikar.
His visit had a dual purpose: To discuss concerns with community members and encourage peacekeepers from Ghana stationed here to continue their protective presence.
General Diop’s arrival was enthusiastically marked by communities living here, and they turned up in large numbers to welcome him.
“We are deeply touched that the community of Koch County has come out as one to welcome us here,” said the General Birame Diop, addressing the massive turnout. “This show of support from all of you means a lot to our peacekeepers who have been battling inclement weather to make sure you are protected and can continue your daily activities without fear,” he added.
General Diop toured the temporary base and commended Ghanaian peacekeepers for their commitment. “The meaningful work you do every day under very difficult conditions is a testament to your dedication to building a durable peace for communities across South Sudan. The relationships of trust and confidence that you have built with the citizens of Koch and humanitarian partners are admirable. I urge you to continue to be vigilant on their behalf.”
For Captain Evan Ekow Ampah, commander of the temporary base, it’s been a difficult but a rewarding experience.
“We have faced enormous challenges: Potable water is scarce, and our tents keep getting flooded because of heavy rains,” reveals Captain Ampah. “We’ve had to continuously shift our tents to higher ground so that we are able to continue our duties here. Moreover, rains have rendered many roads near-inaccessible which hampers the efficacy of our patrols. But we are doing everything we can to maintain calm and stability for residents.”