United Nations, January 25
Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan have established a temporary operating base in Akoka in Upper Nile state aimed at anticipating serious security risks in advance and ensuring better protection of civilians.
India, among the largest troop-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions, currently has 2,383 troops serving in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the second-highest after Rwanda.
“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,” said UNMISS Force Commander Lieutenant-General Shailesh Tinaikar.
“So, we started designing our operations around what in military-speak is called a ‘hub and spoke’ model,” he said.
Tinaikar said instead of restricting to the more established bases in single locations, the peacekeepers developed a system by which they can be mobile in response to evolving security threats and have boots on the ground where civilians need protection the most with minimum delay.
He said this way of working had additional benefits.
“As peacekeepers, our job is not only to protect civilians but also to engage community members and local authorities alike so that we receive early warnings about any potential escalation of tensions,” he said.
“With this method, we are able to anticipate serious security risks in advance and this, ultimately makes us better at preventing violent outbreaks in the first place,” he said.
The Mission said in order to mitigate conflict caused by the seasonal migration of cattle across South Sudan during the ongoing dry season and build confidence among local communities, the UNMISS peacekeepers from India established the temporary base.
The UNMISS said in a statement that the Indian peacekeepers successfully engaged with community members in Akoka and carried out engineering tasks such as levelling of the local school’s football field and constructing a path connecting the school and village over swamplands, helping children avoid long detours.
The peacekeepers conducted a veterinary camp and treated numerous animals belonging to livestock owners.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan and Head of UNMISS David Shearer said: “Our job is to make sure all communities across South Sudan are protected and supported as much as possible.”
“It is often difficult to be mobile and respond rapidly to threats of violence in this country because of the lack of proper infrastructure such as roads and bridges. However, with these temporary bases we can overcome many of those challenges and do what we’re here to do – build durable peace,” Shearer said.
The UN official said he was very proud of the peacekeepers for their commitment and dedication and for taking this proactive, robust approach to protecting civilians and building peace. PTI