Bangladeshi peacekeepers are playing a significant role in the infrastructural development of South Sudan. Photo: Mohammad Al-Masum Molla
Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been working relentlessly to restore normalcy to the war-torn South Sudanese capital Juba and other parts of the country four times the size of Bangladesh.
They are constructing roads, protecting the city’s natural water bodies, building airport hangars and camps for the UN peacekeepers, and repairing streets for the local community where Bangladesh army engineers are taking the lead in South Sudan.
After 22 years of guerrilla war, South Sudan became independent in 2011 but was soon embroiled in a civil war. The situation is so bad that foreigners are not welcome and photography is strictly prohibited in the streets. Walking the streets alone is not considered safe either. This correspondent even heard gunshots at night.
Armed skirmishes are so common that the peacekeepers have to remain vigilant because one little mistake could cost a life.
The South Sudanese are suspicious of foreigners as well, and care very little about the peacekeepers.
Against this backdrop, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been working relentlessly with the South Sudanese people to establish peace and bring change through development work.
“We do not have any word to express gratitude to the Bangladeshi peacekeepers as they have contributed a lot to our country — from transportation to health, education to sport and what not,” Juma Jada, state minister for health in South Sudan, told The Daily Star.
Juma said the sincerity and dedication of Bangladeshi peacekeepers is exemplary.
BANENGR-1 was the first contingent to have been deployed in UNMISS under Regional Protection Force (RPF) after escalation of thr South Sudan crisis in 2016.
Since the deployment of BANENGR-1 on August 11, 2017, this contingent has accomplished 101 task orders and currently has 24 on-going projects.
Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been developing Durupi South to establish accommodation for the whole RPF battalions where Rwanda, Nepal and Ethiopian battalions will reside.
The whole 2.5km project area was a bushy land without any road, Lt Col Mohammad Tariqul Alam, Contingent Commander of Bangladesh Engineer-1, told The Daily Star.
He said Bangladeshi peacekeepers cleared the bushes and started building one of the largest UN camps in South Sudan.
They have also developed a 7.43km perimeter road and a 3km road inside the camp. The Bangladeshi contingent has also repaired the major 145km Juba-Yei road.
They constructed a 7km road in Juba too, Tariqul added.
Bangladeshi peacekeepers have also been working at the Juba International Airport, the country’s only international airport.
When they arrived in South Sudan for the first time in 2005, the runway was barely a strip of concrete surrounded by motley tents.
“The situation did not change much, as only few computers are installed at the airport,” said Maj Muhammad Shoeb Shafiq, who was in the first Bangladeshi peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.
But recently, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been working on Juba International Airport’s first helicopter hanger.
“It is a matter of pride for us that the United Nations authority has given us the task to build the first helicopter hanger for the country’s lone international airport,” Maksudul Ahmed, contingent commander of BANENGR-17, told The Daily Star.
Wherever you go to South Sudan, you will find contributions of Bangladeshi peacekeepers — starting from John Garang de Mabior graveyard to major city streets, culverts, countryside roads, and many other establishments.
South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation, having gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but the majority of its short existence has been marred by conflict. Its civil war, fuelled by ethnic divides, pits the army of President Salva Kiir against the armed fighters of his former deputy, Riek Machar. The conflict is estimated to have killed as many as 300,000 people and displaced almost a quarter of South Sudan’s population of around 12 million.
Two groups of Bangladeshi journalists were visiting some of the African countries this month as part of commemorating 30 years of Bangladeshi troopers on UN peace missions.
First Published by the Daily Star