International Day of UN Volunteers: Samuel Emmanuel Osekeny, Uganda

unmiss south sudan kuajok unv international day of un volunteers serving for peace internally displaced persons quick impact projects

By being a UN Volunteer in South Sudan, Samuel Emmanuel Osekeny from Uganda is being true to his teenage pledge to serve for peace. Photos: Zejin Yin/UNMISS

5 Dec 2022

International Day of UN Volunteers: Samuel Emmanuel Osekeny, Uganda

Zejin Yin

WARRAP – A Protection, Transition and Reintegration Officer with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, 42-year-old Samuel Emmanuel Osekeny’s work in the world’s youngest nation is the very definition of acting together to build peace now. In this short tete-a-tete, Samuel, who grew up in an internally displaced persons camp tells us why, in his opinion, volunteering for a cause larger than oneself is so rewarding.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have 10 siblings and my father died when I was 10. It wasn’t an easy childhood. Rebel attacks and cattle raids in northeastern Uganda forced my family and many others to seek shelter at an IDP camp. We lived there for more than 8 years facing immense hardships before my mother moved us to another region which was safer. And here I am today, helping other displaced people to voluntarily return to their original settlements in South Sudan. It feels like my life has come full circle.

Could you tell us a bit more about your job and the impact you have on the ground every day?
I work every day to strengthen partnerships among various peace stakeholders in South Sudan, including peacekeepers, humanitarians, national and local organizations. As a Protection, Transition and Reintegration Officer, my work is all about people. I am consistently out and about in deep field locations, speaking to the communities we serve and mapping emerging conflict risks. It’s a challenging job because you need a lot of empathy as well as be able to manage expectations.

The part where I think my biggest impact is in building confidence and trust among local populations that UNMISS is here to give them a hand up. It’s a delicate balancing act—dealing with displaced populations, building bridges between them and host communities and ensuring them that if they choose to, they will be able to return to their homes safely. Another rewarding aspect is working on Quick Impact Projects and witnessing firsthand how these small-scale interventions massively benefit communities. I came up with nine project proposals designed to improve the quality of people’s lives and am happy to say five of them have been actioned.

What do you like most about being a UN Volunteer?
My work as a UN Volunteer has given me the opportunity to make good on a pledge I made to myself while growing up: to build peace and contribute to making a real difference in people’s lives. I believe the work I do in South Sudan allows me to give a voice to the voiceless.

What’s one thing you have learned since starting your mission?
UNMISS is my first UN peacekeeping mission, and my biggest lesson has been to work with people from different countries and cultures. This is rewarding and also taught me to be a flexible professional by cooperating well with others whose traditions and beliefs are different from my own. The importance of inclusion, diversity and gender parity has never been clearer to me.

Do you have a message for other young people who want to follow your career path?
Learn to be flexible and tolerant. Be passionate about humanity and, above all, work for peace, love and unity.

Any message for the people of South Sudan?
I urge the people and leaders of South Sudan to remain united and energized to push the peace process forward to fully implement the revitalized agreement and hold elections. That way, communities across the country can finally enjoy true peace and prosperity again, as they develop their own country, which is full of resources.