Part II: When the special turns normal

Source: Pano feed

PANO – When asked about a special working day, the two liaison officers of Vietnam in South Sudan gave the same reply “There are so many special working days that they have become normal.”

>> Part I: “Negotiators” in South Sudan Secure with the presence of the UN Peacekeeping force

The area where Lieutenant Colonel Mac Duc Trong is in charge of is complicated and tense. The UN base in Melut province is responsible for Maban county where there are 4 big camps, holding 150,000 refugees from the Blue Nile in North Sudan, and many oil wells. Oil is the main reason for constant conflicts between the government and the opposition forces. At present, the economy of the country relies heavily on oil exports; therefore, if the oil wells stop operating, the government might collapse, because of a lack of budget, at any time. That is the reason why divisions of the government have been dispatched to the county to take control over the oil wells.

Lieutenant Colonel Mac Duc Trong (first from the left) and his colleges stop for lunch.

Lieutenant Colonel Mac Duc Trong (first from the left) and his colleges stop for lunch.

As soon as Lieutenant Colonel Mac Duc Trong set foot on the area in August 2014, five humanitarian workers were killed in Bunj of Maban County, about 150km from Melut. The tense situation forced international organizations such as UNHCR, WFP, ICRC, OXPHAM, etc. to evacuate their staff. The rest stayed inside their offices surrounded by opposition militants. Robbery is also a common practice there. In face of such a situation, the UN dispatched forces to the rescue and restore humanitarian operations to save hundreds of thousands of refugees. Now locals feel more secure when they have the UN forces stay nearby.


Missions are much harder when liaison officers are to go to areas where conflicts between the Government forces and the opposition forces occur. They have to meet and negotiate with leaders of the parties in the conflicts to ensure the smooth transport of UN food through checkpoints to the refugees.

Transporting by barge poses more challenges to the escort, said Lieutenant Colonel Tran Nam Ngan. It takes the escort 2 to 3 weeks to cover the distance of 650km. And the escort has to travel through areas controlled by both sides. Sometimes, the barges have to wait for the two sides to cease fire before resuming the trip. In case the two sides suddenly open fire when the barges are on the way, the hired helmsmen often flee, leaving the job for the liaison officers and other members of the escort.

At times, they are stopped by both sides, required to show their papers at checkpoints despite the reached agreement that the UN forces are eligible to cross all checkpoints to bring food and essential stuff to the refugees. However, the agreement is not always observed. For quite some times, the UN force has had to give the opposition forces things they required and negotiated to get through the checkpoints.

In general, liaison officers play an important role in such cases. Whether they succeed or not depends on how the officers deal with the real situations and negotiate with parties in the conflict. Firepower does not stand a chance here.

Translated by Huu Duong

Đăng ký: VietNam News