Brazilian Air Force Officer Joins Grand Scale Peacekeeping Mission
By Andrea Barretto/Diálogo January 02, 2018Established in 2007, the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) protects the Sudanese people from the effects of the civil war in the region of Darfur, a western province of Sudan. Conflicts between the Sudanese government and armed local groups already claimed more than 200,000 lives since 2003. The war also displaced close to two million people who mostly sought refuge in neighboring countries like Chad.Most of the population in Sudan is Arab, but the people of the Darfur region are predominantly of Central African origin with multiple ethnicities.
UNAMID is one of 15 peacekeeping operations of the United Nations (UN). The African Union—an international organization whose purpose is to promote cooperation and development among African nations—coordinates the mission with UN. According to UN data from October 2017, UNAMID counts 17,187 professionals—including service members, general staff officers, military observers, police officers, civilians, and UN volunteers.
Personnel hail from 46 nations. Rwanda is among the most represented countries, with 2,469 blue helmets in Darfur and its surrounding areas. Brazil on the other hand counts three general staff officers. Among them is Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) Major Luanda dos Santos Bastos, who joined UNAMID August 27th, 2017—her first experience with a peacekeeping mission.
As a General Staff officer, Maj. Luanda works with the mission’s Operations Control sector. The unit plans all military and police operations of military observers at Team Sites—small military bases strategically set up in different areas of Darfur to monitor peacekeeping. “To facilitate operation control, the Darfur region is divided into sectors,” Maj. Luanda said. “Several sectors, such as intelligence, operations, communications, and civic organizations, jointly carry out the mission’s planning, always with the purpose of making the best decisions for the country.”
Maj. Luanda’s group performs duties directly related to headquarters operations. The group receives daily reports and messages from all smaller sectors and Team Sites to check on significant events, such as assaults, deaths, illnesses, attacks from rebel groups, and food scarcity.
“From there, reports are passed on to those in charge, so that they can reinforce security or take measures to bring the situation under control,” Maj. Luanda said. According to the mandate approved by the UN Security Council, UNAMID’s objective is to protect civilians, provide security for humanitarian aid efforts, monitor and verify compliance with peace agreements, promote the development of an inclusive political process, and advocate for human rights and the rule of law.
Challenges in Darfur
Upon joining UNAMID, military personnel go through a training period to get familiar with the area and the mission. They also take part in security procedure training. Only then are they assigned to a work site.
For Maj. Luanda, Darfur’s unique environment was the first challenge. The area has a dry climate, scarce natural resources, and temperatures that frequently hover around 40 degrees Celsius.
As for daily tasks, the hardest part, she says, is getting used to all the different English accents, as English is the mission’s official language. She also enjoys the support of more experienced personnel. “Here at UNAMID, we have service members of different nationalities with a range of professional backgrounds. Many of them already participated in other peacekeeping missions and in other roles, bringing with them lessons learned to guide the newer participants. However, we know that each mission is unique and that each nation has its own needs,” Maj. Luanda concluded.