By JACKLYN SIRIAS
Major Peter Ikau knows what it is like living on the edge.
In fact, he did it for a year. A member of the PNG Defence Force, Ikau shared his experience back at home in Port Moresby last week after serving on the United Nations peace-keeping mission in Sudan.
These officers do not carry arms but are expected to find a peaceful solutions between warring factions in countries torn by conflicts and where the gun rules, where arms are brandished before a word is spoken.
In a totally foreign society, there were many barriers as far as his work was concerned.
“I was deployed with three others on the UN peace-keeping mission in August 2015,” Ikau said.
Two of them were sent to another state and Ikau and another were sent to South Sudan.
They worked according to the UN peace-keeping objectives as military liaison officers and negotiators.
Their main task was to deal with conflicts and conflicting groups.
They are not allowed to use guns or be armed when trying to solve problems. They will only negotiate or liaise with conflicting parties.
“The people on the ground there, the disputing parties, are in a very complex situation. They have two armies, one for the opposition and the other for the government and everyone on the streets are armed,” Ikau said.
“For us to go out is challenging enough. When we want to respond to issues, we go unarmed to only talk, negotiate and liaise with them to sort issues according to the expectations of the peace-keeping mission we are on.”
Ikau said only their UN force protection team were armed to provide them security and protection when they went out to negotiate with conflicting parties.
“These people on the ground, they do not respect the UN. They really give us a hard time by not allowing us to enter areas under their control,” he said.
“It’s not that we are not allowed, it’s just that, they do not want us to go in because both parties thought we are either supporting one of them.”
Ikau encountered a major challenge on May 31 when he was serving at the Upper Nile state of South Sudan near the Ethiopian and Sudan border.
“I was at a county in Upper Nile state of South Sudan and a fight broke out during a soccer match between the host community and the refugees of Sudan,” Ikau said.
Everyone on the scene was armed but because of the intervention of Ikau and an assistant from the Rwandese force protection, the fight stopped.
“Actions taken by me and the Rwandese force protection team – we were able to stop that fight that could have been worsen knowing the situation around that area.”
His courage was applauded by the United Nation mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) commander.
“That was the part where the UNMISS force commander acknowledge our efforts and awarded me with the commander’s commendation.”
Ikau also received a medal with the other members after completing their in August. The four majors returned to the country last month.
Ikau, who is from East Sepik, has been a solider or more than 20 years, is thankful to PNGDF for the training and opportunity to work outside PNG.
“South Sudan is a very flat country with six months dry and six months of rain. When it’s dry, there is no green vegetation. No farming, only cattle breeders.
“They get much of their food supply from Uganda. We buy food from Uganda and take it back. I ate with the locals. I went with 144kg and I lost 44 kg.”
By JACKLYN SIRIAS