From the gold mines of Ghana to Malakal: British contingent displays benefits of diversity
Growing up in Ghana, Private Asiwome Awudy never dreamed he would one day be in the army – at least not the British army.
“I went through the motions as a young boy, not quite settled on what I wanted to be, however I always admired the practices that came with the army.”
The chat with Private Awudy is filled with warm anecdotes as he reflects on what it means for him to be part of the most ethnically diverse army serving with the United Nations mission in South Sudan.
The amiable soldier has come to be known in Malakal over the last six months, for his cheerful demeanor, his industriousness and fortitude – and his ability to make a good story out of every situation.
“I was working in a completely different setting, providing heavy machinery for gold miners in Ghana. I was largely established in my job, making good money and coming to think of it, only an army job could have uprooted me from it.”
Private Awudy finally got his golden opportunity to join the British army three years ago, when a call was made to Commonwealth member countries for new applicants. He didn’t need to be asked twice.
“I already had a friend in the army and he always had great stories to tell, so when I heard they were recruiting I jumped at the opportunity. I’m grateful because he told me what to expect – from the chilling cold to the training and all.”
He would eventually be sent on deployment with the United Kingdom Engineering Task force working alongside other troop-contributing countries in Malakal. Despite being an African native coming to serve the United Nations in an African country, his family and friends were a bit worried when he was deployed to South Sudan.
“There was definitely some concern about my coming here because everyone referred to South Sudan as being in conflict,” he says. “For me, it’s been sad looking into the eyes of the young children living in the harsh conditions at the protection site here – I wish I could give them hope.”
As he comes to the end of his tour here, Private Awudy speaks confidently about the benefits of having an army of diverse individuals based in South Sudan’s second largest city.
“It was heartwarming to be among the local South Sudanese people and for them to refer to me as their “brother” – not just another soldier. They were always comfortable around us Africans perhaps because they felt like we identified more with their plight,” he speaks fondly. “We also attracted a lot of attention from the young boys who wanted to know if they too could join the British army!”
Private Awudy was part of a group of three hundred British soldiers who recently received medals of honor for their dedication and service in peacekeeping.
“Receiving this medal, my first medal, for my service to the United Nations in an African country, is truly a great source of pride, honor and joy for me as a native African serving in the British army.”
Sector Commander Brigadier General Johnson Kofi Akou-Adjei lauded the efforts of the contingent who he said executed their duties professionally amidst enormous challenges.
“It’s impressive what you’ve been able to achieve in the past six months despite the limitations and restrictions that you’ve faced. You all have performed superbly and your positive input towards our mandate here is acknowledged and appreciated.”
The contingent provides engineering tasks that enable the mission to achieve its mandate. The sixth tour of the taskforce has offered sections of the local population a variety of vocational trainings and self-defence classes for women, aimed at reducing the risk of them falling victim to sexual violence. The British engineers have also been instrumental in the completion of the new base in Kodok, a key town along the Nile’s west bank.