A few weeks back WFP Arusha was assessed by Graham, a Security consultant, with 25 years moving about in Africa after an initial career in the British army.
I can get lulled here in Arusha with the mashed potatoes and French films but he was here to remind us that security is always an issue. This is not just about going out alone at night and exposing oneself to petty theft and physical harm. It is about office break-ins, or theft of maize from the warehouse, or the misappropriation of this maize once delivered to children or refugee camps. It’s about jeep-jackings en route to some mission, or just plain getting stuck in the mud. It’s about mechanical breakdowns (and emotional I muse?). What of bombings such as happened in the late nineties in Dar es Salaam? It is about what happens when the War Crimes Tribunal shuts down in another year – another loss of employment and trickle down money for the rest of the local economy.
The Anti-Piracy Court, established to investigate piracy off the coast of Somalia, may be located in Arusha and therefore may fill the gap – but at what risk from the likes of Al Shibaab, the principle “terrorist” group out of Sudan? Have I heard of this group? No. Do I listen to the BBC’s “Focus on Africa”? No. (My life seems rather full at the moment.) Without these courts, the Arusha unemployment rate will likely go up. Consider the spill-over of political violence from disaffected neighbouring countries, or the plain truth that UN/WFP employees are better off than the average worker and everyone in town knows this.
Are we prepared? Do we have emergency phone numbers? Is there a “focal person” to contact? Is there a ladder on the office second floor in the event of fire? I’m beginning to worry about all there is to worry about. What if the white jeeps get stuck en route? Is there a first aid kit, a shovel, spare food and water – a machete? Where is the nearest hospital?
The guards know what’s up and they are indecently underpaid by contractors. My goodness, who is watching the watcher? Just how helpful are the guards if asleep at night or the electric fence around the compound is not “hot”? Is there a morning after the night before pill when, far from home, or near it, one’s been careless and strayed? Yikes!
It is in my nature and background to believe and to trust. Graham says he started this way too, twenty-five years ago. He suggests starting the other way ‘round first (easier said than done for the likes of me).
Graham popped his head around the corner by my desk on leaving to tell me to keep a sense of humour. You too.