Sudan: The Japanese Ambassador visits the Mine Risk Education Project Site

MRE sessions conducted using the original education materials (November 22nd, 2013, Kassala) 
In Sudan, countless landmines were buried during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). There are more than 1,900 victims of landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXOs) in the country, and even after the end of war in 2005, 651 cases of new victims by landmines and UXOs have been reported (as of Mach 2014, Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA)). In addition, the conflict has reignited in southern regions of Blue Nile state and South Kordofan state in 2011, raising the risk ever higher of an increase in causalities from UXOs. Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) develops its original education materials such as posters, flip chart story, and songs and goes around villages to conduct educational sessions about landmines for local residents. Since its start in 2006, approximately 100,000 people have attended the MRE sessions.

In 24th March, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Sudan, Ryoichi HORIE, visited our project site in Kassala state, Eastern Sudan where AAR conducts the mine risk education (MRE) project. For this occasion, AAR Japan, together with local residents, organized an event to introduce the MRE program to the Ambassador. Takashi UJIKAWA of Sudan Office reports.

Presenting Mine Risk Education Activities with Local Residents

More than 250 people attended the event, amidst the heat of over 40 degrees Celsius (March 24th, 2014)
We invited the county chief, the head of the village, the government officials, and local residents of Darasta village to the event. Guests include a UN Senior Technical Advisor to the Mine Action Centre and the Director of National Mine Action Center (NMAC) in Kassala who drove down 8 hours from the capital Khartoum for the event even though he was on his leave at the time. In total, we received 250 guests on the day. The venue of the event was the Darasta elementary school in Telkok locality where AAR has implemented its MRE sessions.

Demonstrating Mine Risk Education Session

At the event, our field officers demonstrated a part of the MRE session that MRE teams have conducted in the village and introduced songs composed to deliver correct information on landmines among others. In addition, the students of the Darasta elementary school presented local traditional songs and a short play on mine risk education, which they prepared with AAR Japan's staff. The short play began with students trying to go into a hazardous area where landmines are buried in order to collect scrap metals. The teachers of Darasta elementary school and MRE officers joined these children and demonstrated a great performance. Dialogues within the short play were very entertaining to watch, which received wild applause from the audience.
Short play by the children of Darasta elementary school
AAR Japan's MRE field officers, Yousif (left) and Mustafa (right) giving the demonstration of MRE session.
  We received speeches from many of the guests. The director of the Kassla state radio station spoke on the importance of "Kaizen (improvement)". The radio station had previously received radio recording equipment and training through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Programme, and AAR Japan has been broadcasting programs on the dangers caused by landmines with the support of the station. In hearing the director's speech with the Japanese term "Kaizen", we felt that the previous aid from Japan has taken root in the heats of the people of Sudan, and is making AAR's work worthwhile.

At the end of the program, we had the honor of receiving a speech from Ambassador, Ryoichi HORIE. In the speech, we received words of encouragement that

"Sudan receives attention and focus often on the theme of its conflict resolution as there are unceasing conflicts within the country as well as in its surrounding nations. However, it is also crucially important how to regain the life of peace and stability after the conflict. Mine action is a vital initiative to regain peace and stability and thus is important for the future of Sudan."

Through this event, I too further realized the importance of mine action and the fact that our activities have been built upon the support of so many people. The event was covered by the local media and was later broadcasted inthe TV news program nationwide. I would like to express my appreciation to the Ambassador who had visited our project site despite his busy schedule and to all the people who supported us in this event. AAR Japan will continue our work vigorously towards a mine-free Sudan. 

Takashi UJIKAWA (the reporter) wearing sword and jalabeya (local male clothes) presented by the County Chief of Telkok locality. "Does it look good?"
To the ladies, the Hadendawa tribe's toab (Sudanese traditional costume) was presented from the County Chief of Telkok locality. Ikuko NATORI, Manager of Support Division, Tokyo Head Office, who was visiting Sudan at the time of the event (to the left), and Harumi KAWAGOE of Sudan Office (right).

Takashi UJIKAWA, Sudan Office
Mr. UJIKAWA majored in International Politics and spent half a year in Zambia as a volunteer while at the university. After working for electrical equipment manufacturing company, he joined AAR Japan in September 2013 as he "wish to take part in international cooperation professionally." After working in AAR Japan's office in Tajikistan, he has been assigned to Sudan office since December 2013.