Back on track after a long leave!

by The Nixter on 09/09/2011 · 0 comments

in My day

Folks,

since more than two weeks I am back on track again in Juba after having an awesome 4 weeks vacation in Europe. It was great coming home after almost 8 months in South Sudan – the first days I surely had a reversed culture shock – the freedom and security in Europe, the overflow of goods and services, I had to adopt to it again. There is a deep thankfulness in my heart to be part of a society were all the basic human needs are met. Let’s also make it work in other places.

Before my return to Juba I was expecting that things within the mission might have changed a lot over my absence. I was right, and the scale of change shocked me for a few days. New work routines, new faces, new neighbors, new everything. If you meet old UNMIS staff there is almost a deep feeling of a shared history. Now the UNMISS staff is composed of parts of the old staff from Juba and Khartoum but also people who are new to the mission. Anyway, from day one I was so busy working that I did not have time to reflect. I was assigned to be the focal for point for special flight requests, that is a request raised by someone for a special flight outside of the normal UNMISS flight schedule. I had to closely work with the military and humanitarian agencies to work things out. It was interesting and challenging – but most of the time things got somehow stuck somewhere – welcome to the UN. You think you have worked it out, but then the phone rings, something went wrong – and most of the time it is just impossible to figure out what went wrong and when. At times it is mindboggling!

Then my work priority was changed again and I was assigned to go to the field, into one of the hotspots of the ongoing inter-tribal fighting in Jonglei State. So, we put together a small team, one Australian Police Officer, a Security Officer from Cameroon, a South Sudanese Language Assistant and me we started on the 6 September our mission to assess the situation on the ground and to collect data to understand the underlying conflict dynamics within the community of one of the conflict parties better. UNMISS build a little base there with six big tents, however both big generators were screwed, and a small replacement generator did not work either, so no power for us. Not too bad, yes, it was hot during the day and yes,  it was hot during the night, and yes, air condition or at least a fan would have been nice, but no, that was not possible – don’t ask why the generators have not been fixed before….another UNMISS question that will for sure never ever be answered. But, we managed without power – life goes on and it wasn’t that bad. Oh, and, running water – forget it! It is a billion dollar mission, but running water for teams staying in the middle of nowhere – forget it! Amazing, beyond, not understandable – UNMISS!

But I don’t want to bitch too much because we actually had a very interesting time there. We connected well with the community and because we stayed longer than the usual 3hours on the ground, we were able to receive a lot of valuable information. David, the Australian UNPOL, is a real outdoor champ, his camping gear was amazing and his cooking skills superb! He turned this trip into a delicious wonderland!

So, to make a long story short, I am now in Bor, the capital of Jonglei State. I live in the UNMISS teamsite and work closely with the State Coordinator – actually I try since my internal email is not functioning since I am not in Juba, but a few hundred kilometers up north. Yes, I am in the same mission, but that doesn’t mean that you can access your professional email account from everywhere. A few years ago, when all these failing mission structures were set up, there must have been a genius around whose only agenda it was to make the life of UN staff as miserable as possible.

Anyway, I am back on track and I thank all of you for reading this blog! Take care till next time!

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Independence Day coming up!

by The Nixter on 08/07/2011 · 1 comment

in My day

Wow, tomorrow Southern Sudan will become the Republic of South Sudan. Independence Day! Great! It is going to be a busy day here in Juba, tons of important people flying in, a parade, the new flag is going to be raised, the transitional constitution will be signed, the first President of South Sudan will be sworn in, a lot of speeches. Tight security.

I will board a chopper tomorrow in the morning and fly to the highest point in Sudan, Mt Kinyati. There a Southern Sudanese flag will be raised in the beautiful environment of Southern Eastern Equatoria State. Ahhh, escape the hype in Juba, board a chopper and fly to the peak around 3000 meters and raise a flag. Sounds like a real plan to me.

Congratulations to South Sudan – it has been a long way!

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Stuff to think

by The Nixter on 08/07/2011 · 1 comment

in My day

I truly believe in the UN, I believe in the idea and I think that it is the best we have. It is easy to blame the UN for doing or not doing this or that, but do you have a better idea? I don’t. So for me the bottom line is: Great idea – not so good implementation on the ground. It is interesting to see here in UNMIS Universe how things are done; couple of examples from the last days: As you can probably imagine a lot of high ranking officials from all over the world are coming for tomorrows Independence day. Among those high ranking officials is the Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon. So far so good. What I find a bit odd is that UNMIS staff were told to move out of their container for a day to a more remote place in camp for Mr Ban Ki-moon and his entourage. I also find it a bit odd that the local cafeteria is closed for the public tomorrow in the morning because Mr Ban Ki-moon and his entourage and maybe other more or less important people will have breakfast at that time. Now, I am wondering, what is the message that is conveyed to the UNMIS staff here in the camp through these actions? I know that you can rationalize these actions till the cows come home, but still, what is the message we are getting here? I shall not answer that question but leave it to you to think about it.

Now, of course Mr Ban Ki-moon is a very busy person and has meeting after meeting after meeting. One of the meetings is scheduled for tomorrow morning and upon his request, six selected staff members from lower ranks are going to meet Mr Ban Ki-moon. I was very surprised when I heard about it and thought that is a truly great idea to want to know and listen to what those people have to say. As it turns out now these six people are only allowed to ask one question to Mr Ban Ki-moon and that question shall not touch upon a long list of topics and needs to be handed in beforehand to the secretariat of Mr Ban Ki-moon. You make the math!

Oh, did I tell you that we have a big humongous cow living on the compound, a gift from the GoSS to Mr Ban Ki-moon at a former visit to Southern Sudan? Of course Mr Ban Ki-moon could not take the big fat cow with him, so he left it here in the camp. The Bangladesh Troops in the camp now take care of it and named it Ban Ki-moooooo!

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Independence Day coming up!

by The Nixter on 04/07/2011 · 0 comments

in My day

Saturday, 9th of July, will be the day! South Sudan will become the youngest nation on earth, country nr. 193!

Juba is getting pimped big time for this historic event: Streets are cleaned, flowers are planted, street lights are installed. A big tribune is being constructed for the parade, the airport gets a VIP reception area and additional parking space for all the airplanes flying in Heads of States and other important people. A lot of money is being spent on the celebration – and sometimes I wonder if that is the right approach to show a pimped version of Juba to the guests from all over the world. Would it be so bad too confront them with reality and spend the money for sustainable measures, like building schools and hospitals, police stations. But I guess we all want to give a nice impression when receiving visitors. In any case: Next Saturday will be the biggest day in the life of most of the Southern Sudanese people.

Of course a lot of UN big shots are also joining in, the camp tries to turn every available space into accommodation. My first office now turned into a dormitory, apparently only for one night. Then the caravan moves on….

For UNMIS the 9th of July is also an important date, since it marks the end of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan – and the end of the mandate for UNMIS. So, from 10th July something new will begin here. The mission and the mandate will change, new priorities and goals will be set. New staff will arrive.

I lost a few illusions about the last weeks, too many absurd things happened, too many absurd things are still going on. Maybe that is unavoidable when the biggest supranational organization is at work, maybe not. I don’t know.

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My phone is back…

by The Nixter on 29/06/2011 · 0 comments

in My day

After a few days my phone appeared again – on my new desk, ready to use! Should there be some sort of angels flying around at UNMIS? Thanks to the invisible helping hand!

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Check it out: Admin told us to leave our desk phones behind when we move into the new office facilities, that we will be provided with new phone there. Oh boy, I have a long time to go! I believed it – packed my things today, left my phone behind, moved to the new space, found out that secretly the direction was changed and that there will be no new phones. Upon my return to my old office here in Box City I see that the whole place is already cleaned out and that my phone is gone! That is not a major disaster but it has the potential to loose a few hours of my life chasing that phone. In any case I have to face UNMIS admin…and I am really not up for that right now. But, do I have a choice? If I don’t enter the maze and chase that bloody phone I will have to pay for it in the end (you remember, there is something like check-out at the end of your time with UNMIS). So, what can I do? To make it even more complicated UNMIS admin and my new office are now in totally different places, about a 30-50 minutes drive, depending on traffic. Oh yeah, and by the way, a printer also disappeared, and that is really costly. I don’t think there is bad intention in both cases just people being thoughtless – but the amount of trouble that comes with it will be amazing! Experienced UNMIS staff laughs at me because I believed that everything will be waiting for me in the new office space! And they are right, what a fool I am ! I keep you posted!

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Never underestimate the UNMIS administration. I heard that some poor fellow was eaten alive by it and never seen again. It always starts out in a harmless way, you never think in the beginning that there might be a problem or complications along the way because the path seems so clear. But as you enter the maze of UNMIS administration you enter a whole new game. A game that has rules (or no rules, depending on the perspective), a game that does not really need to follow logic and a game that for a simple task, like organizing basic office equipment, demands a serious contribution of your work and life time.

Now, one of the most challenging games one can play with UNMIS administration is called check-out! And check-out is like the creepy hairy and smelly monster in the dark under your bed waiting for you, knowing that its time will come since everybody has to do a check-out before leaving the mission – it is unavoidable. [click to continue…]

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Yeah, turn turn turn, remember that old Byrd’s song? No, the UNMIS Universe turn is not about getting high. The UNMIS Universe turns – among many other things – around itself. These days are filled with uncertainty about the new mission. Ok, let me explain: On 9 of July, Southern Sudan will become independent, welcome country nr 193! Now that also means, that the mandate for UNMIS is running out that very day. And that means, that the old mission will either be extended for a short period of time (roll-over mission) or a new mission with a new mandate starts on the 10th of July. Both are acceptable possibilities, but the level of confusion right now about what will happen is unbelievably high. [click to continue…]

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Folks, UNMIS is a dynamic environment. For the good and the bad – today for example was time to say good-bye to two very nice colleagues of mine, actually one of them being the UNV who received me nicely and guided my first steps here in UNMIS Universe and Box City. He offered me great support! Thanks man! It is hard to believe that from now on these known faces will not be part of daily life anymore, I will really miss the guys. But that is mission life, people come and people go. Is it better not to get to attached to people then? I don’ t think so, but one should be aware of that things will change eventually. Nothing stays the same forever. And although that is a basic fact of life, in mission life, especially when you live in a camp like Box City here, it becomes very obvious. And to accept that and make the best out of it is a challenge.

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Curfew 11pm

by The Nixter on 13/06/2011 · 0 comments

in My day

Folks, the UN in its great wisdom has decided that every staff member in Juba needs to be in camp at 11pm. Due to a deterioration of the security situation here in town it is communicated. The funny thing is that nobody really knows what that deterioration of the security situation really means, I mean it is not like suddenly hell broke loose on the streets of beautiful Juba. Not at all. It is indeed business as usual. So why needs the curfew than to be lowered from 01am to 11pm? Nobody really knows. But it is a major bummer indeed! Of course 85% of UNMIS staff here in the compound don’t really give a flying horse…. since they are never leaving camp anyways. But for the rest of us infamous swashbucklers of glittering Juba  nightlife it is a rough new reality we are suddenly confronted with! Well, get those books and movies out boys, gotta lotta time in camp now!

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