CISR in Sudan 2012: A day in the life with Mines Advisory Group
This is how it is supposed to go, we thought, trudging into the fields and teak forest near our camp.
On Sunday, we came to Yei from Juba with Mines Advisory Group. We had started this morning with a visit to a local school for a mine-risk education session. There, MAG risk-education leaders had taught lessons on safer behavior around mines and other threats. The children laughed, played along with the leaders and ended the session by singing a song with us: Mines, mines are danger. Whether you’re tall or short, fat or thin, mines are dangerous to us all.
Our second stop was a risk-education session for a local community that had reported suspicious materials near its encampment. We traveled from the school to a gathering of tukuls a few hundred meters from the MAG compound on the Juba-Yei road. About 40 villagers—men, women and children of all ages—had requested that MAG come and share information on dangerous areas. Growth in Yei is visible all around—new tukuls and buildings crowd freshly cleared land everywhere. As populations move outward from the town center, land development uncovers new threats.
When the session ended, community members approached the MAG community liaisons with further questions. One man held back for a while and then asked the question that would change our itinerary for the day: What could MAG do about the weapon he had found in his field?
So there we found ourselves, following the farmer and MAG community liaisons down the road and into the woods. Several hundred meters from the road, near the boundary of new agricultural area, the farmer pointed out a 60mm mortar shell in a termite hill. The MAG weapons-destruction team conferred, while the community liaisons gathered information from the farmer. We had lucked out—not only had the community liaisons solicited important reports of dangerous areas, but the MAG team could remove the threat that very afternoon.
We returned to the dangerous area after midday. Eugene, MAG EOD Team Leader, conducted a security briefing for his team and our group. Sentries established a cordon to keep civilians (and animals) out of the area, while Eugene and his team prepared the demolition. As I had never initiated a demolition before, I got the honors.
A short countdown, a big boom and it was all over. Most days the job is not flashy, but when it is, it really is.
While MAG might normally have secured the unexploded ordnance and moved it for a large demolition, turning around on the munition in one day showed the community that MAG can be a trusted partner for safety and security. Although the mortar shell was a routine spot-clearance task for them, it was amazing to see the full scope of their work. And to think, it all started with a local farmer and community liaisons a few hours before.
Soon, we will move a few kilometers out of the town center to the Norwegian People’s Aid compound. There, we will see its mine-detecting dog training facility and conduct field visits to minefield- and battle-area clearance operations.
Geary Cox II (’06, ’08M, ’15P) is project manager and program coordinator at CISR. He joined the staff as an Editorial Assistant to the Journal of ERW and Mine Action in March 2005. He holds a Master of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science, both from James Madison University. He is pursuing his doctorate in nonprofit leadership at JMU’s School of Strategic Leadership.