This scene was not in Vietnam but in Abyei, a land of conflicts, natural disasters and poverty, where the Engineering Company Rotation 2 of the Vietnam People's Army is performing U.N. peacekeeping duties.

Kids from Abyei townlet Kindergarten welcome Lt. Gen. Pham Truong Son and the Vietnamese delegation.

This was the reception for the inter-sectoral working group for Vietnam’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations, led by Deputy Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Pham Truong Son, during its visit to Abyei townlet Kindergarten. Everywhere at the school of orphans, the Vietnamese delegation was welcomed with cheers and dances imbued with local cultural identity.

“Vietnamese people are not guests; they are our family’s members,” an official of the kindergarten shared.

Lt. Gen. Pham Truong Son presents gifts to Abyei townlet Kindergarten.
Lt. Gen. Pham Truong Son and children in Abyei

Vietnamese peacekeepers took their first step in Abyei in early 2022. Although the time has not been long, sentiments of local people towards Lt. Gen. Pham Truong Son and the Vietnamese delegation showed the efforts of the Vietnamese "blue berets" in conducting mass mobilization work and carrying out practical activities for local people.

Upholding the traditions of the Engineering Company Rotation 1 led by Senior Colonel Mac Duc Trong, the Vietnam’s Engineering Company Rotation 2 at UNISFA has continued to implemented a series of activities, including repairing classrooms, building new classrooms, and making desks and chairs for schools, screening films for children, and constructing roads for local people. With closeness, wholehearted support and sincerity, Vietnamese peacekeepers have always had a special place in the heart of people in Abyei. Meanwhile, local people call Vietnamese soldiers “the tenth tribe,” as there are nine tribes in Abyei.

At the handover of two classrooms and a kitchen to Abyei townlet Secondary School on June 12, Minister of Education in Abyei Nyinkuany Aguer Bol valued the great support from the Vietnam People’s Army.

He affirmed that this was not the first time that the Vietnamese Engineering Company has conducted practical activities for the people in Abyei, especially for local schools. Over the past two years, the Vietnamese engineering force has built new roads, joined rescue operations, and cleared drainage systems to prevent flooding, among others. These activities have touched local people’s hearts and made them feel safe when being with kind people.

The delegation visit a classroom built by the Engineering Company Rotation 2 for Abyei townlet Secondary School.

According to teacher Garand Mithiang Arop from Abyei townlet Secondary School, the two new classrooms were not only a material gift but they also contributed to bringing a brighter future for students.

During the meeting with local officials, teachers and people, Lt. Gen. Pham Truong Son underscored that although the number of Vietnamese peacekeepers in Abyei is not large, they would exert all-out efforts to help local people, accomplishing the U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Lt. Gen. Pham Truong Son talking with Minister of Health and Minister of Peace and Reconciliation of Abyei Chol Changath Chol
The head of the Vietnamese delegation and students of Abyei townlet Secondary School

The kindness of the Vietnamese peacekeeping soldiers, together with practical deeds, has spread widely across many communities in Abyei. Therefore, almost all UNISFA’s leaders, officials and local people attended the ceremony to hand over an iron boat repaired by the Vietnamese engineering troops to people in Mijak village at Highway base, where Vietnam Engineering Company Rotation 2 is stationed.

Right after the event, local people would use the boat to conduct fishing activities, travel across the Kiir River or even carry out rescue operations during the rainy season. Minister of Peace and Reconciliation of Abyei Chol Changath Chol touchingly shared that this is the third boat that has been repaired by the Vietnamese engineering force. For local people, the boat is a precious asset and they deeply appreciate Vietnam's help.

Delegates attending the ceremony to hand over an iron boat repaired by the Vietnamese engineering troops to people in Mijak village
A typical house in Abyei

Abyei, with small and old thatched huts, now has new classrooms. Although armed conflict can happen at any time, these classrooms will certainly echo with the sounds of students. The saying “Hello” in Vietnamese is heard in many places in Abyei. The Vietnamese “blue berets” with hearts of gold have become relatives of the people in Abyei.

Reported by Ngoc Hung (from UNISFA)

Translated by Quynh Oanh