Life in the conflict zone: peacekeeping in Georgia.

Author:Gunst, Gerhard
Position:FieldWatch
 
FREE EXCERPT

The United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and its participants are hosts in the conflict zone. I will always keep in mind the words of my landlady: "On the first day, you are our guest, but very soon you will feel like a member of the family." These words reflect my thoughts and feelings for my colleagues, as well as for the local population.

Every day, when I walk from my accommodations to the compound, I see the familiar faces of my neighbours, children going to school, people from nearby villages going to the market--a normal life, almost. I also see people who suffered as a consequence of war, who are waiting and praying for peace, in an environment that is still experiencing criminal activities and poor living conditions. The old have seen life before the war, but the young--the children--don't know better.

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There is a short update from the Military Information Officer, maybe on some killings or shootings during the night, and informing the Sector Commander of our planned patrol activities and about guests from participating countries in some patrols. Then we have the morning briefing for the entire sector, after which the patrols are launched. The United Nations military observers also work as rescue and ambulance drivers for our own security, and to provide assistance to local authorities and villagers and professional medical treatment in life-threatening situations. While this is ongoing, we also work together to train new colleagues, solve problems, prevent incidents, plan and improve future programmes, and liase with the Commonwealth of Independent States' peacekeeping force, local authorities and non-governmental organizations. We also perform engineering and civilian and military cooperation activities. After the patrol returns, there is a debriefing with the Sector Commander, staff and team who reports on anything from the violation of the Moscow Agreement, a killing, shooting or looting, to poor living conditions and a lack of medical assistance in remote areas. These debriefs always remind me of my own experience with the Hotel Team Patrols and show the enthusiasm of the...

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