Right in early June, heavy rains and high winds caused some thatched houses in Abyei to collapse, signaling a big rainy season. 


Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr, Force Commander and Acting Head of the Mission for UNISFA, and Vietnamese peacekeepers at the handover ceremony

Last year, the Engineering Company Rotation 1 of Vietnam taking on duties at the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) witnessed the destruction of the transport system, isolation of many residential areas, flooded houses and properties, and collapse of many houses.

Therefore, when receiving an order from Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr, Force Commander and Acting Head of the Mission for UNISFA to fix two troubled boats for people in Rumamier County, the Vietnamese engineers contacted the Military Observer Group stationed at Banton base and the Infantry Battalion of Ghana which is in charge of managing the locality to carry the boats to their barracks for repairs.

UNISFA Deputy Force Commander Brigadier General Abu Syed Mohammod Bakir at the event

According to Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr, repairing the boats for local people is an important humanitarian activity of the mission, affirming UNISFA's commitment to peace, security and safety of the people in Abyei.

Together with repairing and upgrading roads, building, consolidating and upgrading airports and helipads at independent military units of Pakistan, Ghana, India, and Bangladesh at UNISFA, Vietnamese ‘blue-beret’ engineers have also been trusted by the mission commander to help the locals repair severely-damaged iron boats to help them deal with contingencies in rainy season in a timely manner.

For local people, in rainy season, iron boats are the only means of transport for them to make a living; a savior for transporting food, and taking sick people to medical facilities, or students to school. Thus, such a boat is very important to them. In the previous rainy season, because the boat was damaged, a woman living in one side of a river could not reach a medical facility on the other side of the river when she was giving birth, resulting in the death of her baby.

Members of the Engineering Company Rotation 1 repairing the boat

Therefore, at a regular meeting between the military observer group and people in Rumamier village, the village’s head asked the mission to repair the two boats. The meeting with local people and patrols are daily conducted by UNISFA forces to grasp local security situations.

According to Vietnamese engineers, both boats, built a long time ago, were rusted, badly damaged, perforated in many places, with some 20 - 30cm wide holes. Thus, they dealt with the rusted and rotten parts and then welded holes with steel sheets. On ensuring no more water leak, they painted the boats with anti-rust paint and wrote the words "Peace for Rumamier" on with the hope that the war will end in this area and people will live in peace.

On reviving the two boats, the Vietnamese Engineering Company Rotation 1 worked with the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation to hand over the boats to the locals in the presence of UNISFA Deputy Force Commander Brigadier General Abu Syed Mohammod Bakir, UNISFA Police Commissioner Violet Lusala, UNISFA Chief of Staff Alexander Gerard Rose.

Addressing the handover ceremony, the UNISFA Deputy Force Commander congratulated Rumamier villagers on receiving newly-upgraded boats, a must-have vehicle in the rainy season. He also applauded Vietnamese military engineers for their responsibility and competence. He stressed that Vietnamese peacekeepers worked professionally.

Local residents and children are cheerful for the newly-fixed boat

A representative from the village expressed deep thanks to the UNISFA and Vietnam’s Engineering Company, saying that this was a significant activity conducted by a U.N. peacekeeping unit. He asked Vietnamese engineers to repair three other boats for people in Mijak village, some 5km from Rumamier village.

Responding to this request, Brigadier General Abu Syed Mohammod Bakir tasked the Engineering Company of Vietnam with the work and asked the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation to report the outcomes of the humanitarian activities to the U.N. Headquarters in New York.

In the historic rainy season in 2022, the whole Abyei was flooded, causing heavy property damage to local people. In that situation, the Vietnamese Engineering Company Rotation 1 suggested the force chain-of-command build an iron boat to take rescue missions to save people in isolated areas, thus minimizing losses to the people and their property. As a result, a 2.5m wide and 6m long boat was built after over two weeks.

Witnessing the strong boat built by the Vietnamese military engineers, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyerr directed functional agencies to provide Vietnamese Engineering Company with two thrusters to install on the boat to facilitate the rescue mission. The boat later worked effectively, safely transporting people in isolated areas to safe ones.

Reported by Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Quang Tuyen from Abyei

Translated by Mai Huong