Louis Visagie has been working as an Operations and Quality Assurance Officer with UNAMID’s Ordnance Disposal Office (ODO) in El Geneina, West Darfur since February 2012. In this interview, he speaks of his work and his commitment to protecting innocent civilians from explosive remnants on war.
Q: Tell us a bit about your work with UNAMID.
A: As part of UNAMID ODO, we work collaboratively with the National Mine Action Centre and several other partners to achieve the five pillars of mine action--clearance, getting information on the locations of unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war, safely destroying them and removing all traces of such objects. We also undertake a fair amount of risk education and sensitization activities among the local communities. Additionally, we advise the Mission’s military and police components on weapons and ammunition management as well as proper storage. UNAMID ODO has handed over temporary storage facilities to the Government of Sudan police as well as weapons marking machines to the Sudan DDR Commission. Victim assistance is another important part of the Mission’s ODO mandate, though we face budget challenges at times.
Q: What, do you feel, are some of your biggest achievements in your career with UN peacekeeping?
A: I think my biggest achievement was enabling our office to work as a single team with all our close partners, the National Ordnance Disposal Office as well as our contractors. The amount of success in terms of clearance and sensitization that we have achieved in the past three years would not have been possible if we did not work together as a seamless unit.
We consistently try to create an environment where everyone is committed to their duties, including the National Ordnance Disposal Office, our Sudanese counterpart in town, the risk education team and our national colleagues.
Q: In your opinion, why is it important to invest in peace?
A: I think peace is a priority for all of us. Any kind of conflict affects children and civilians the most, and it is our duty to ensure that such innocent people get the support they deserve. This is what makes my work at UNAMID so fulfilling for me.