The peacekeepers

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/9 18:13:39

Shanghai officers in South Sudan share stories from their mission


Shanghai Municipal Security Bureau conferred collective first-class merit to the city's fourth independent peacekeeping team to South Sudan on December 27. Two years ago, 14 police officers from criminal investigation, border inspection, SWAT and other departments of the security bureau departed for conflict-torn South Sudan to help maintain peace and protect civilians.

South Sudan was listed as the most dangerous area for peacekeeping due to frequent turmoil and lasting ethnic violence. South Sudan won its independence in 2011 but has been in a civil war since 2013. As of 2016, South Sudan has the second highest score on the Fragile States Index, which assesses states' vulnerability to conflict or collapse.

Chen Hua and his teammates received training in Uganda before they set out to South Sudan and were told by Ugandan police that they were going to leave heaven for hell. As predicted, they soon faced many challenges.

Clean water in South Sudan is scarce. Water supply in the capital city of Juba comes from the Nile and is not safe to drink due to bacteria. They must fetch purified water from the nearest supply station, 3 kilometers away. Chen and his teammates had to rinse vegetables and wash their clothes with purified water at least twice to remove bacteria.

Before they departed China, peacekeeping police received eight types of vaccines, but nonetheless two still caught malaria and one had typhoid fever. Chen was bitten numerous times by mosquitoes during his patrols and, as a result, began vomiting frequently along with a rising fever. Doctors detected two kinds of plasmodium in his blood test.

Flies are terrifying in South Sudan. Peacekeeping force leader Zheng Hong once saw someone swat a fly on his arm; the fly's poisonous blood immediately infected his skin. Snakes such as the Black Mamba can also kill a person within 7 seconds simply with one venomous bite.

To keep poisonous insects from laying eggs in their clothes, the peacekeepers had to set up nets around their quarters. They also wore thick clothes and boots even when temperatures hovered at 50 C.

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The members of Shanghai's first peacekeeping team are seen in this 2004 file photo. Photo: CFP

All-to-frequent conflict

Apart from natural challenges, Zheng and his team members spent most of their time mediating conflicts and creating conditions for lasting peace. South Sudan is a country of varied ethnicity and a long history of ethnic violence.

On May 8, 2015, a riot took place in a Juba refugee camp for three days, killing three people and injuring 300. More than 1,000 refugees attacked with sticks and ironware. Zheng and his team members worked together with other peacekeeping forces to separate the refugees and prevent further conflicts.

On July 19, 2015, people from the Juba No.1 Refugee Camp fought against those from No.3, who supported a different political leader.

"We saw only roaring crowds and flying stones when we arrived at the site," Zhu Junru, the peacekeeper's then deputy commander in chief, decided that they should separate the refugees and send the injured to hospitals.

Zhu called in help from Chinese infantry forces and, while awaiting their arrival, Zhu and his teammates along with anti-riot police from other countries separated the rioters.

On November 20, 2015, two groups of refugees disagreed over food distribution, dumping 2 tons of food into waste ditches as a form of protest, then kidnapped three UN officers.

Chen and his teammates broke into the camp unarmed and urged the refugees to negotiate. The conflict wasn't completely resolved, however, until January of 2016.

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Chinese peacekeeping forces act on various missions in some of the world's most dangerous areas. Photos: CFP

Keeping Chinese safe

Apart from helping build peace among the Sudanese, the Shanghai peacekeeping force also protected Chinese who work and live in the unstable state.

Starting April of 2015, conflict between the government and opposition forces in the upper Nile region escalated into a virtual tug of war in Melut. In the city, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has over 2,000 employees, including 404 Chinese.

To ensure their safety, Xie Sixun from the Shanghai peacekeeping force got in touch with CNPC's Chinese manager to exchange daily messages and updates.

On May 17, 2015, Xie received a map from a refugee whose husband had obtained it from anti-government forces.

Xie was alerted that CNPC might become a target after noticing that its oil field was clearly marked on the map. Xie and his teammates then left the refugee camp immediately.

As soon as they arrived at their base camp, Xie reported the clue to Juba headquarters who in turn ordered Xie to inform CNPC to evacuate all of its employees.

Two days later, a tremendous firefight took place in the region; rebels asked all oil companies operating in the upper Nile region to close down immediately and evacuate their staff for their safety. By May 21, all CNPC staff were withdrawn successfully.

Along with African Union, UN, the EU, the US, the UK and Norway, China has successfully mediated negotiations in South Sudan, resulting in a peace agreement signed in August of 2015 in Ethiopia under threat of UN sanctions for both sides.

Translated by the Global Times based on stories from thepaper.cn and the Xinmin Evening News

Posted in: METRO SHANGHAI,CITY PANORAMA

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