By Senior Airman Codie Trimble
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs
JUBA, South Sudan – Peace, food insecurity and great potential. These were the common themes discussed when U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. James R. Kriesel, deputy commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), visited U.S. government and South Sudanese officials in Juba, South Sudan, August 14-16.
Kriesel met with leaders of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Center for Disease Control (CDC), United Kingdom and U.S. Embassy Juba personnel, and South Sudanese government and opposition leaders to examine the enabling effects CJTF-HOA has made in the development of South Sudan through medical, agricultural and chaplain outreach, and to learn about the overall South Sudanese environment.
“These meetings helped me better understand the state of affairs in South Sudan and where CJTF-HOA can assist,” said Kriesel. “Yes, there are some challenges in South Sudan, but the country also has opportunity.”
One of the biggest opportunities for South Sudan is the fertile nature of its soil.
“This country has great potential: the White Nile [River], the agriculture, and the natural resources such as oil,” said Kriesel. “However, the most important [resource] is the people of South Sudan. The more peace, the more stability there is in the country. That is what will allow the people of South Sudan to start farming recognized fertile land and prosper from the White Nile.”
According to James Hope, USAID mission director in South Sudan, approximately seven million people, about 65 percent of the South Sudan population, require some sort of food assistance. The most common methods of support are food drops from aircraft held in various locations around the country, totaling roughly 700 million dollars in aid.
“The country [South Sudan] has tremendous potential to produce its own food,” said Hope. “The key point is how we need to transition our humanitarian assistance to development assistance.”
To strengthen this development, CJTF-HOA has held medical civil action project (MEDCAP), veterinary civil action project (VETCAP), and chaplain outreach missions throughout the country.
VETCAPs allow CJTF-HOA to build relationships with local community animal health workers via animal health surveillance and to improve knowledge, skills, livestock medicine and best practices.
Similarly, MEDCAPs allow CJTF-HOA to partner with South Sudanese medical doctors and specialists to provide medical treatment to the local population.
“MEDCAPs are a very productive ability to build relationships with the SSPDF’s medical personnel, which is huge,” said Dr. Sudhir Bunga, director of the CDC in South Sudan.
“The MEDCAP is working as an effort to show the SSPDF a normal work relationship with CJTF-HOA,” said Amb. Thomas Hushek, U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan.
The U.S. is currently working to strengthen the whole health system in South Sudan, not just work on the fight against Ebola, said Hushek.
“Civil action projects such as VETCAPs and MEDCAPs are just one way CJTF-HOA helps enhance our African partners’ capabilities,” said Kriesel. “These projects assist South Sudan in making positive advances in their medical and agricultural development.”
Chaplain outreach has also been helpful in opening doors and establishing relationships that may not have otherwise been available in South Sudan.
“We recently conducted a successful chaplain outreach mission that created discussion amongst South Sudanese officials,” said Kriesel. “It was rewarding to hear first-hand from Ambassador Hushek how the chaplain outreach mission, in addition to the VETCAPs and MEDCAPs, have made a positive impact in the country.”
Later in the visit, Kriesel met with Charles Moore, deputy head of mission assigned to the British Embassy in Juba, to discuss the capabilities CJTF-HOA can bring to the British Embassy in South Sudan, and David Shearer, special representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of the UNMISS, to discuss how UNMISS conducts the peacekeeping mission.
Kriesel’s final meeting of the trip was an informal reception, organized by the U.S. Embassy Juba’s defense attaché office, with foreign military attachés, government of South Sudan leadership, opposition leaders, personnel from Ceasefire & Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring & Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), leaders from the international community in Juba, and U.S. Embassy Juba staff.
“During this meeting, I had the opportunity to interact with senior leaders from the SSPDF, while also witnessing interactions between them and members of the opposition,” said Kriesel. “Listening to the beliefs and opinions expressed during the meeting gave me a snapshot of the complexities involved in this situation. Figuring out peace may take some time, but it begins with healthy dialogue such as this.”