Prisca Kisongo, a police officer from Tanzania, is just one of many peackeepers serving under the African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) who participates in providing security and protection patrols which the Mission carries out throughout Darfur 24 hours a day.
Ms. Kisongo is stationed in the Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), located near El Fasher, North Darfur.
“As a police advisor, I am part of a team which consists of officers from UNAMID's various sections including child protections, gender, human rights, rule of law and security. Each of us interacts in our area of expertise with the IDPs,” she says.
On the day of the interview, Ms. Kisongo explained that earlier in the say she was on a patrol and that often times the residents' concerns are often about a lack of food and water, as well as access to health care and schools. She notes that patrols also visit detainees in prisons and check for potential human rights violations.
With 1.4 million people still living in camps, and a majority of the people in Darfur still facing an inadequate access to basic health-care, education and other services, the challenges within and around the camps remain enormous.
The UN humanitarian community estimates that 300,000 people have fled fighting in all of Darfur in the first five months of this year, which is more than the total number of people displaced in the last two years put together.
Since arriving in Darfur two years ago, Ms. Kisongo explained that she has work hard to build trust by creating relationships with local communities, particularly with women and community leaders known as 'undas'.
Women in peacekeeping are a growing force. In the 32 years between 1957 and 1989, a total of only twenty women served as uniformed UN peacekeepers. By 2012, out of approximately 125,000 peacekeepers, women constitute three per cent of the military and 10 per cent of the police.
“We noticed the improvement in security here, more stability within the IDP camp,” says Mr. Khalid Arrejamy, a police officer from Yemen and colleague of Ms. Kisongo.
Mr. Arrejamy is a team leader who works in the two other IDP camps near El Fasher – Abou Shok and Al-Salam. He briefs the patrols before proceeding to the camps and is tasked with reports on the situation on the ground to his superiors.
“When I see people doing their activities in the market or in areas around the camps, this motivates us to do better. We feel that we improve even ourselves, our duties and our responsibilities,” he added. “We feel that we have done something that has contributed to the peace and stability of the communities.”