FAQ on Japan's International Peace Cooperation Assignment in South Sudan

(As of October 2012)

1. What kinds of activities did the SDF peacekeepers engage in back in Japan? Are there any female personnel in the unit?

The personnel in the unit typically belong to the Central Readiness Force or engineer brigades of Regional Armies of the GSDF . They go through training and are deployed for disaster relief in the cause of Japan's peace and independence. No female personnel are included in the current unit, but their future deployment is being considered.

2. What kinds of activities are conducted by the SDF ? Do you think some 300 personnel are enough to produce tangible results?

The SDF engineering unit is scheduled to repair roads and other construction work in and around Juba, the capital, for the time being, and is bringing trucks, excavators, and other vehicles one after another. Apart from the engineering unit, the SDF set up the Coordination Center, which will engage in coordination activities with the UN and the South Sudanese government to examine local needs and plan new projects. Working together with ODA (Official Development Assistance), which is meant for longer-term social development, can be within the scope of work in the future.
Therefore, the SDF 's efforts to build up infrastructure will be helpful to pave the way for South Sudan's state-building in the long run.

3. I've heard that a number of NGO s are engaged in local activities. Will the SDF coordinate with them?

Various NGO s, including Japanese ones, are already in operation in South Sudan. In principle, the UN assigns individual infrastructural projects to the SDF unit. But this time, the SDF created the Coordination Center for the first time as a structure separate from the engineering unit, which will help Japan form each project more actively in response to local needs in cooperation with NGO s.

4. I hear that the transportation network and other infrastructure are extremely poor in South Sudan. Doesn't that affect the SDF 's operations?

It is said that no more than several dozen kilometers of roads are surfaced in South Sudan. The infrastructural environment is not good; many roads get muddy and thus impassable in the rainy season. That is why people have high hopes for the SDF , and we are ready to contribute to building infrastructure in South Sudan, making full use of the SDF 's capabilities.

5. Why does Japan send an SDF unit to South Sudan? Will it be of any benefit to Japan? How?

South Sudan has just seceded from Sudan and gained independence after a prolonged civil war. The international community, including Japan, must cooperate so that countries of this kind do not end up as a hotbed of terrorism. We will do everything we can to restore peace and stability.
Since South Sudan is rich in oil, diamonds, iron and other mineral resources, Japan attaches great importance to the country from the perspective of economic diplomacy. The dispatch also gives us an opportunity to show other countries the SDF 's high morale and capability, which will in turn help Japan earn more credit.
Japan has received countless letters of sympathy as well as offers of help from various countries including South Sudan in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which we believe owes much to Japan's long experience in international cooperation.

6. How long is the SDF going to stay in South Sudan? Will the locals make use of the SDF 's infrastructural contribution?

On July 5, the Resolution 2057 was adopted by the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of UNMISS for one year, through July 15, 2013. Accordingly, on October 16, the Japanese government officially decided to extend theterms of the dispatch of the SDF through October 31,2013.
The SDF engineering unit is conducting damaged roads repairs and other construction work, to help lay the foundations for economic activities and social life. Those accomplishments of the SDF will provide a base for state-building of South Sudan.

7. I hear that the climate of South Sudan is harsh, and infectious diseases such as malaria are rife. Can they maintain sufficient health ? How is the SDF dealing with mental health of SDF personnel?

Living conditions in South Sudan are far from ideal. Careful prevention against infectious diseases including malaria is indispensable.
The SDF gives personnel going to South Sudan thorough sanitary education to prevent infectious diseases, and gives them necessary vaccination and preventive medication. Medics in the unit offer medical examinations to SDF personnel.
For the purpose of stress prevention, the personnel hold a meeting every day to exchange views on what happened during the day and regain mental health through the discussion not to carry stress over to the next day. Besides, psychiatrists are sent to the dispatched area in order to conduct mental health treatment.

8. I often hear about tribal conflicts these days. Don't those conflicts take place near the SDF operation area? Who protects the SDF ? Aren't they exposed to any danger? Can they defend themselves in case an armed group assaults them?

Jonglei and other states that frequently witness tribal conflicts are several hundred kilometers away from Juba, where the SDF stations. Since there are few paved roads that connect Juba with remote areas, those conflicts are not expected to make a direct impact on Juba. The conflicts mostly spring from troubles over cattle, and do not directly target the UN .
When it comes to security, the SDF assumes the primary responsibility for itself. Engineering troops carry minimum weapons with them to protect their own lives just in case. A Rwandar infantry battalion is currently in charge of overall security in Juba.
At this moment, there is no threat against the UN , and the local impression of UNMISS is fairly good.

9. Where do SDF personnel live, what do they eat, how do they spend their free time? Illustrate their daily life a bit.

The personnel are on duty from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During the free time, they do exercise for training, or communicate with their families back in Japan on the Internet or over the phone. They now live in containers. They eat rice , soup and several side dishes.

10. Do SDF personnel have any occasions to communicate with the locals?

In Haiti, where Japan has dispatched engineering units since February 2012, the SDF has an active presence on the street and mixes with the locals. The SDF began its full-scale operation in South Sudan, and we believe it is necessary for them to find as many opportunities as they can to mingle with the locals outside of their camp so that their activities supporting South Sudan's state-building effort go can be carried out with as few hitches as possible.