Our Man in Juba – Lament for the YPI Program

Tasneem Jamal

John Siebert

The Ploughshares Monitor Winter 2006 Volume 27 Issue 4

The air in Juba this past October was thick with humidity and dust. Juba is the administrative capital of South Sudan. A trading site in the middle of a vast emptiness split by the White Nile, it was a garrison town held by the North in the civil war. With the peace agreement the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Movement were transformed into the Government of South Sudan, headquartered now in Juba.

A Fanta, no ice, was all that stood between my plate and the polite company sitting across the table from me at the Juba Raha. The name means “pleasure,” or so I was told. The Raha is a hotel with a restaurant, straight from a Graham Greene novel, too small for the growing number of foreign visitors with interests in Sudan now that there is a hesitant peace. The Raha has supplemented its colonial-era main building with rows of army tents on platforms spread out in the yard. My Ploughshares colleague and I were staying somewhere else, but also in tents. The Raha was only a lunchtime stop.

The North and South are not the only parties in town dickering over some kind of peace. Talks between the Ugandan Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army are being hosted by the Government of South Sudan here at the Raha. The South Sudanese want the violent incursions by the LRA into their territory to stop. The negotiators and their gun-toting security guards were taking a lunch break like the rest of us, outside in the heavy air.

The LRA has been wreaking havoc in northern Uganda, south Sudan, and several other countries, for 20 years. Two million Ugandans have been forced to flee to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. Tens of thousands of children have been abducted and forced into the killing and raping fields. Now the LRA unexpectedly wants to negotiate a peace that will allow its leaders to just go home. Did I say Graham Greene? More like Joseph Conrad.

Dave Mozersky, originally from Ottawa, was also at the Raha. He lives in Nairobi, but that day he was our man in Juba. Mozersky was there to report on the progress of the negotiations for the International Crisis Group, one of the new open-source intelligence gathering organizations that have emerged in the last 10 years to analyze the world’s trouble spots. He isn’t a spy for the West, but a new type of engaged researcher and analyst who refuses to rely on the familiar arc of stories written by governments and media in war-torn locales.
International Crisis Group is one of the best and most trusted sources of current information on Sudan. If you are interested in Sudan or working for a government or aid agency on Sudan, you have been – or should have been – reading their periodic reports. Much of the recent information gathered and assembled by International Crisis Group is from Mozersky’s extensive network of contacts in the Horn of Africa.

For four years he has been hanging out in dusty towns all over this part of Africa, talking to the players, sorting out who is doing and saying what to whom and why. The air is as thick with political intrigue as with the pervasive, energy-sapping humidity.

Seeing Mozersky at the Juba Raha was a happy coincidence, but it was more than that. It was a sign of success for Project Ploughshares. In 2001 we sent him to Nairobi as part of the Young Professionals International internship program to work with the Africa Peace Forum. When he finished at APFO he stuck around. By June 2002 he was working with Crisis Group on Sudan and following all the twists and turns on the path to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.

On 25 September the Canadian Government announced $1-billion in cost-saving measures on the same day that it announced a $13-billion federal budget surplus for the previous fiscal year. The YPI internship program was among the cuts. Project Ploughshares has participated in YPI since 1997 and sent out over 100 young women and men to organizations throughout the developing world and to peace and conflict institutes in Europe.

The YPI program was designed to give graduating Canadian students their first real taste of international work and to launch them on their career paths. It was cheap and effective. The Ploughshares interns were introduced to peacebuilding through partner institutions that reflect what we do, and what Canada stands for internationally at its best. These alumni now have jobs in every conceivable form of international organization.

With the passing of the YPI program I lament lost opportunities to meet successors to Mozersky in Juba and all the other dusty places where conflicts simmer or rage, and peace must be constructed piece by piece.

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