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Maj Sobia Bibi

NIL

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Hilal Her

MINUSCA–The Voyage of a CIMIC Peacekeeper

June 2024

From April 2023 to April 2024, I served as a Civil-Military Coordination (CIMIC) officer in United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Having the opportunity to serve in a multinational force and in an international environment was an exceptional privilege that facilitated reciprocal learning and exposure. Join me as I explore the tale of UN peacekeeping in the Central African Republic (CAR) I will share my personal journey, the challenges encountered, and the profound impact it had on my life in one of Africa’s most complex conflict zones. 



I am a female resident of Taxila, Rawalpindi, proudly serving in the Army Corps of Engineers since 2014. In November 2022, while I was on my way home for a weekend retreat, I received an unexpected call. Unbeknownst to me, the call would lead me down a transformative journey. The clerk notified me that I had been selected as a CIMIC officer for the MINUSCA. I experienced a profound feeling of achievement as my extensive efforts, commitment, and enthusiasm had been acknowledged. Upon receiving the news, my widowed mother expressed happiness and satisfaction as this was a momentous milestone, marking the beginning of my mission to make a positive and lasting impact on humanity. 
Prior to deployment, thorough training and other necessary pre-departure procedures were conducted and I embarked on a voyage from the “Land of the Pure” to the “Mother Continent”. As I disembarked from the aircraft onto the tarmac at Bangui-M’poko, CAR, I instantly experienced the scorching heat of the African sun. 
As a CIMIC officer, my role was to facilitate communication and collaboration between the peacekeeping force and the local population. This involved participating in socio-economic development projects, interacting with local authorities and community leaders, and building relationships based on trust and mutual respect. This position required a deep understanding of people, a heightened awareness of diverse cultures, and a strong commitment to fostering peace and cooperation.
I had the opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities that greatly enhanced my professional skills. Every opportunity to provide vital humanitarian aid or empower individuals via skills training programs was a chance to benefit the local community. During my extensive stay, I successfully planned and carried out numerous CIMIC initiatives in Sector West, specifically in Bouar and the adjacent areas. 
I frequently engaged in workshops with local officials, such as mayors, village heads, and political figures. The workshops were enriched and diversified by the implementation of diplomacy, teamwork, and cultural exchange. These encounters were essential in fostering relationships, acquiring valuable insights, and facilitating collaboration towards achieving our purpose. 
Conducting patrols in the villages of MINUSCA was a truly memorable experience that offered valuable perspectives. While walking around the villages, I encountered amiable grins and inquiring gazes, which demonstrated the locals’ curiosity and optimistic attitude towards our presence. 
The joy that radiated from the local children’s faces when they were given gifts during CIMIC-conducted activities was genuinely infectious. With delicate care, they unwrapped each cherished item beaming with gratitude and hope. Witnessing the projects that empowered women with information, confidence, and resources to advocate for their rights and well-being consistently brought me a profound sense of fulfilment. 
Serving as the Military Parade Commander for the United Nations Peacekeeping Day on May 29, 2023, was a great privilege. With impeccable poise and self-assurance, I led troops from diverse SWHQ Contingents, including Bangladesh, Peru, Cameroon, and Senegal. Our coordinated footsteps reverberated in flawless harmony as we advanced in unison, showcasing our collective identity as something greater than simple warriors. 
Participating in the observance of UN Day, UN Cultural Day, and World Environmental Day in Bouar (SWHQ), CAR, was an enlightening experience. These events allowed us to unite and contemplate our principles and joint endeavors in the pursuit of peace, stability, and human rights. With meticulous organization and cooperation with peacekeepers of all nationalities, the festivities showcased a diverse range of cultures, traditions, and heritage from around the world. 
The planning and implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) is a vital duty of a CIMIC officer. We efficiently strategized and implemented QIPS in Sector West and its Area of Responsibility (AOR), making use of bridges, public buildings, schools, and multi-purpose halls. The crucial infrastructural advancements not only improved the availability of essential services but also acted as a significant representation of progress and development for the community. The local residents expressed gratitude as they observed significant improvements in their daily lives, including augmented accessibility to markets and healthcare facilities, as well as increased prospects for education and economic advancement. 
Despite the linguistic barriers we encountered, there were numerous instances that brought us joy and entertainment. During my time in Bouar, I had the pleasure of engaging in delightful exchanges with the local vendors in the bustling marketplace of the CAR. The language constraints resulted in comical misinterpretations and meaningful interactions with the local community. I found it quite fascinating how laughter and lighthearted conversations can bridge the gap between individuals across the diverse cultures.
MINUSCA provided me with the opportunity to establish robust international relationships. Collaborating with individuals from various backgrounds was a highly rewarding experience. We had spontaneous meals and engaged in conversations beneath the scorching heat and blue skies. We realized the potency of companionship and comprehension in surmounting the linguistic barriers. We forged profound friendships during our trip, imbuing our journey with vibrancy and affection. The celebration of Eid at MINUSCA demonstrated the enduring strength of tradition. Despite our absence from home, our Eid celebration was filled with pleasure and unity. The vibrant traditional attire and delectable cuisine created a cozy and inviting atmosphere for Eid. The Pakistan independence day celebration was characterized by a lively atmosphere, with the prominent display of Pakistani flags and the playing of national anthem. Pakistani officials emphasized Pakistan’s extensive historical background, multicultural population, and global achievements. 
I had the privilege of taking part in my group’s medal ceremony after successfully completing my tenure and receiving the UN Medal. As I stood alongside my fellow officers, a powerful sense of camaraderie and unity permeated the atmosphere. Each medal represented bravery and commitment of each person and our collective goal was to establish peace and stability in the CAR. Pakistani MINUSCA peacekeepers demonstrated exceptional performance in this dynamic setting, owing to their professionalism, commitment, self-control, and expertise. 
My tenure at the UN enhanced my professional skills and provided me with valuable experiences that influenced my personal and professional development. The UN has provided me with numerous leadership opportunities to plan and implement both domestic and international events. Through these experiences, my leadership, management, and community engagement skills have been greatly improved. I experienced a significant improvement in my cultural understanding and professional performance in various environments. I have honed my skills in navigating intricate political landscapes, mitigating security challenges, and overcoming logistical hurdles in a volatile environment. 
In conclusion, building trust and credibility with different stakeholders necessitates a substantial commitment of time, patience, and a genuine dedication to understanding and meeting the needs of the community. Despite these challenges, I am fully committed to achieving the mission’s goals and improving the lives of the people in the CAR.


 

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Maj Sobia Bibi

NIL

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