On-Site Reports from Our Peacekeepers

The Friendship into the Future

Lieutenant Colonel David Stanley
Australian Defence Force Liaison Team

They say that every road begins with a first step and so it is with the rehabilitation of the Juba-Yei road, currently being undertaken by the personnel of the Japanese Self Defence Forces ( JSDF ) Engineer Company. Juba-Yei road runs to the south of Juba City and connects with the township of Yei and is vital to the ongoing growth of South Sudan and its people.

LtCol Stanley (centre) with local children(img)

LtCol Stanley (centre) with local children

Given the already heavy usage of this road and with the dry season fast approaching, it is vital that this road be rehabilitated and it be commenced now. The rehabilitation of this road is very important to South Sudan as it will provide a quick and safe route to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, both important trading partners of this landlocked country. It will also join with Western Equatoria State, potentially the future bread basket of South Sudan, to allow farmers to grow more and bring the produce to the market, improving trade and food security.

Teleconference with Col Namatame, Chief of the Coordination Centre(img)

Teleconference with Col Namatame, Chief of the Coordination Centre

Due to the outstanding engineering skills of the JSDF , the United Nations Mission in South Sudan ( UNMISS ) requested that the JSDF Engineer Company begin the task of rebuilding this road. The personnel of 2nd Engineer Platoon, commanded by CAPT Hino have enthusiastically begun the task and have made impressive progress, completing over 1,000 meters in under a month. However, unfortunately due to the timing of their redeployment home to Japan, they will hand over the balance of the task to the incoming 3rd rotation of JSDF Engineers.

Many of the local South Sudanese have commented on the hard work and dedication of the Japanese personnel and the speed that they are rebuilding the road. They all acknowledge that this work will have a beneficial impact on their lives.

Meeting with UNICEF(img)

Meeting with UNICEF 

The Coordination Centre in Juba ( CC ) and Engineer Company of the JSDF in partnership with UN military personnel from Australia and India recently participated in a joint project with UNICEF and the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure ( MOPI ) of the Central Equatoria State of South Sudan to create a ‘zebra' crossing for a local, boy's primary school. The school is located adjacent to a very busy main road and with hundreds of children attempting to cross the road every day, a decision was made to try and improve the children's safety.

LtCol Stanley with Dr. Haque, UNICEF representative in South Sudan (right)(img)

LtCol Stanley with Dr. Haque, UNICEF representative in South Sudan (right)

In this project, MAJ Urakami from the CC led the many and varied meetings to coordinate the effort from such a diverse group of participants. It was decided that the most appropriate time for the painting of zebra crossing would be 24th October 2012, United Nations Day. This would provide an opportunity for the multi-national personnel to visibly demonstrate to the local people that they cared about the safety of children in South Sudan in accordance with the ideals of the United Nations.

All participants arrived at the primary school at 1130 hours to be addressed by the Deputy Special Representative for the UN Secretary General, Mr. Toby Lanzer, and the UNICEF representative in South Sudan, Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque who then addressed the gathered UNMISS personnel and school children. A senior South Sudanese Traffic Police Officer then stepped forward and gave the children an explanation of the zebra crossing and why they should use it. All the children were nodding at the police officer's words but the excitement to begin was palatable.

Painting zebra crossing with local children(img)

Painting zebra crossing with local children

At approximately 1230 hours, and with great excitement from the children, all participants moved to the zebra crossing site to begin painting. Local police officers, civilian staff from MOPI and personnel from the JSDF Engineer Company had started much earlier in the day and had prepared the site to ensure there was no delay in commencing the project. The local police did an outstanding job of ensuring that all traffic was diverted away from the site and patiently explained to any and all South Sudanese drivers why they couldn't proceed through the site as it was to benefit children. With guidance from the personnel of the JSDF Engineer Company, the children were instructed on where they had to paint and more importantly where not to paint. Soldiers from Australia and India also assisted the children with the task of painting the zebra stripes and everybody was caught up in the infectious enthusiasm of the children.

Australian officer (Flight Lieutenant Garner) joined the charity(img)

Australian officer (Flight Lieutenant Garner) joined the charity

Paint tins and paint brushes full of white paint were rigorously employed, with many of the children taking turns to have a go at painting. After about an hour everybody stood back and admired the brand new zebra crossing that was the work of so many different hands from many different nations. It was a tangible, physical product of so much goodwill and volunteered time and was a fitting activity to celebrate UN Day.

Group photo of the charity participants(img)

Group photo of the charity participants

Last but not least, the Australian Defence Force Liaison Officer supporting the CC , LTCOL David Stanley recently invited the officers and men of the CC to Australia House for a BBQ dinner. Australia House is home to all the Australian Defence Force personnel working in Juba and it was an invitation readily accepted by the JSDF members. At the house, the JSDF members had the opportunity to meet and converse with the Australian Defence members and to share family and work stories in a relaxed environment. All members soon realized that regardless of their nationality, all members miss their friends and families and area proud of their service in South Sudan. Many good friendships were made that night and it reinforces the belief that Japan and Australia are good friends, now and into the future.

BBQ dinner at Australia House(img)

BBQ dinner at Australia House

Group photo with the CC members(img)

Group photo with the CC members

November 2012, Juba