[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]
In a brief interview of Heads of Military Components, who attended a Conference in New York from 11 to 15 August, iSeek spoke with Major General Paban Jung Thapa from Nepal, the Force Commander for UNMIS, the United Nations Mission in the Sudan.
The degree of peacekeeping difficulty varies from mission to mission and place to place. Sudan is a challenging location and the UNMIS mission is complex, says General Thapa.
UNMIS was established by Security Council resolution 1590 (S/RES/1590) and as of 31 July 2008, at 9,878 total uniformed personnel, including 8,710 troops, 546 military observers, and 622 police, it is also one of the larger missions. Rounding out the mission's personnel are, as of 31 May 2008, 851 international civilian personnel, 2,432 local civilian and 238 UN Volunteers.
UNMIS personnel hail from approximately 70 different countries, with English used for communication.
The Head of the Mission is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, while Kai Vittrup from Denmark is the Police Commissioner.
General Thapa said that expectations from the local population are always high, and that there is no negative response to the troops, whom they "do appreciate." The mission reaches out to tribal leaders and other authorities to talk with and convince them as part of their efforts towards establishing peace, stability and development.
UNMIS was involved in the initial deployment of UNAMID, the African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur, and both missions are in constant contact at different levels, advises the General.
Within UNMIS itself, the military, police and civilian components plan and work closely together; dialog and discussion are encouraged. "JMAC works quite effectively," said General Thapa, referring to the Joint Mission Analysis Centre, a structure that gathers, analyses and disseminates information within a mission for tactical, operational and strategic purposes.
A highlight for General Thapa, who joined the mission in May 2008, was helping sort out the crisis situation that occurred during the same month, involving renewed hostilities in Abyei between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army.
General Thapa told iSeek that the mission continues to do its best, working to achieve benchmarks laid out in the Abyei roadmap and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and to reduce tensions and prevent further escalations.
After attending the Heads of Military Components Conference in New York, General Thapa was heading to Ohio to see his family. iSeek asked him if it would be difficult to say goodbye to them after seeing them for a week. The UNMIS Force Commander answered that it would be "much more difficult not to see them."