On-Site Reports from Our Peacekeepers

South Sudan in the Rainy Season

Captain Nobuhiro Arai
Staff Officer (Engineering), UNMISS 

A year has almost passed since South Sudan's independence in July 2011. Here, I would like to outline my duty as an UNMISS Staff Officer and our ties with the locals.

1. South Sudan in the full-scale rainy season

The rainy season lasts from May to September in South Sudan. Unlike the Japanese rainy season, squalls suddenly attack the ground, accompanied by thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures are around 30°C, a tad cooler and more comfortable than the 40°C and above commonly experienced during the scorching dry season. However, torrential rain leaves UNMISS personnel stranded and hinders them from engineering activities.

A squall(img)

A squall

2. My duties as an engineering staff officer

2.1  An engineering staff officer's role

The two major roles of a staff officer (engineering) are 1) the coordination of UNMISS 's overall engineering activities, and 2) those of the Japanese engineering unit's activities. UNMISS was launched right after the independence of South Sudan. The Mission's engineering activity is currently focusing on constructing UN bases around the country. Of all the processes, I am mainly in charge of coordinating the transportation of materials necessary to build and maintain the bases. I also arrange the task orders that the Japanese unit's tasks are based on, and facilitate its activities.

Coordinating engineering activities(img)

Coordinating engineering activities

2.2  Some thoughts on my duties

  2.2.1  Prioritizing engineering activities  

One of the main reasons that Japan dispatched Self-Defense Force personnel to South Sudan is to help their state-building efforts. There is an urgent need to repair roads and bridges in infrastructure-poor South Sudan, and thus the locals have high expectations for the Japanese engineering unit. At the same time, UNMISS , after its creation in July 2011, has focused on the construction of UN bases all over the country. Under the circumstances, the engineering activities that the Japanese unit intends to perform do not always square with the role that UNMISS wants Japan to play. Staff officers thus need a delicate sense of balance when it comes to prioritizing engineering activities within the limits of capacity and equipment at hand.

  2.2.2  The effects of rain  

One of the main reasons that Japan dispatched Self-Defense Force personnel to South Sudan is to help their state-building efforts. There is an urgent need to repair roads and bridges in infrastructure-poor South Sudan, and thus the locals have high expectations for the Japanese engineering unit. At the same time, UNMISS , after its creation in July 2011, has focused on the construction of UN bases all over the country. Under the circumstances, the engineering activities that the Japanese unit intends to perform do not always square with the role that UNMISS wants Japan to play. Staff officers thus need a delicate sense of balance when it comes to prioritizing engineering activities within the limits of capacity and equipment at hand.

An operation site after rain(img)

An operation site after rain

  2.2.3  Precarious procurement  

Materials such as gravel are indispensable for repairing roads, but, unlike in Japan, where gravel can be ordered direct from traders, the Japanese unit is required to mine and load it by itself in the vicinities of its camp site in accordance with contracts with UNMISS . Local transportation companies provide trucks by contract. I wonder if this is the African way, but they have never prepared the ordered number of trucks on time. The quarry is the property of the local community, so we have to get along with it. Since steady supplies of materials are a determinant of the construction period, I never really feel at peace on duty.

Introducing kendama (Japanese traditional cup-and-ball)(img1)Introducing kendama (Japanese traditional cup-and-ball)(img2)

Introducingkendama(Japanese traditional cup-and-ball)

4. Final words

The second Japanese engineering unit is scheduled to replace the first unit in June, and expected to play a major role in engineering activities. I, as an engineering staff officer, am set on making the most of my experience here and on carrying out my duty for the last two months so that I can help lay the foundations of the engineering unit's effective and outstanding performance.

May 2012, Juba
Cabinet Office, Government of Japan1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8914, Japan.
Tel: +81-3-5253-2111