Thursday, May 7, 2009

Do I have a phobia??

I don't like guns. I've never fired a gun and I have no desire to do so, and until I lived in Bangers, I'd never really been in close contact with guns...granted, the guns that guards had there must have been about 60 years old, but they were still guns.

Guns are everywhere here; the house guards have sawn off shotguns and I've seen what looked to me like an uzi hanging on the wall of an IDP's hut. Then there's the guards at the mall, the signs asking you to check in your guns, and of course, the military and police cruising around in the back of pickups with the guns pointing out at the side of the road (Why can't they point them up?)

Today Haidee and I went to a place called Tulunan, where nearby fighting over the weekend forced a lot of people to evacuate. We went to assess whether they should receive WFP support. We stopped in at the Mayor's office first, and she said that while it was safe enough, that she'd provide an armed escort for us - military in plain clothes. I made the comment to Haidee that I wasn't sure which made me more uncomfortable: having a uniformed escort, or a non-uniformed escort.

The Mayor gave the instruction that they were to be discreet, yet when we pulled up to the first evacuation site, they all jumped out of their pickup and started slinging their massive guns over their shoulders. I asked the government partner rep to tell them to get back in the car. My driver turned to me and asked, "do you have a phobia about guns?" I explained to him that I didn't have a phobia about guns, and that I was concerned not only for the appearance of the UN being associated with men with big guns, but also because these people had just fled for their lives from men with big guns. 4 civilians died in the crossfire over the weekend, and the government report on the situation shown to me this morning included some half page colour graphic photos of the casualties.

I don't like guns. I don't like being followed around by men with guns, but I've accepted that as part of the package to working here. What I don't accept is men I don't know following me around and freaking the living daylights out of people that have obviously been through trauma you and I can't imagine.

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