“They had no idea where the Solomon Islands was,” senior sergeant Charlton Metopa told SIBC news
“We were shocked because we know where their country was on the map, but they didn’t know ours.”
It is a common occurrence for Solomon Islanders travelling abroad. But in this case, the situation is a little bit different.
Senior sergeant Metopa was one of the first five Royal Solomon Islands Police officers deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in Dafur, Sudan.
Metopa, 33, is from Santa Cruz Island in Temotu, but also has maternal links to the To’obaita region in Malaita.
He joined the police force in 2004, and rose through the ranks to be selected for the historic first ever UN peace keeping mission.
He was one of five officers picked out of 20 RSIPF officers trained under the RAMSI International Deployment Group Program.
“Compared to other contributing countries in the UN, Solomon Islands Police force is really small and new,” he said.
“We did our best to put our mark on the mission, and although we are new, we made an impact to keep up with the standard of other bigger and developed countries.”
Sergeant Metopa said the experience helped develop his policing capacity. He said working with other police officers from other parts of the world gave him new insights on other policing cultures.
He said apart from the language barrier, dealing with the huge number of people was a challenge for the contingent.
“We are not talking about tens or hundreds, there were thousands of people that we dealt with each week,” he said.
“It was a non-executive mission, so we didn’t have the power to arrest people, we just identified cases and then referred them to the local police.”
Sergeant Metopa said their daily tasks included ensuring humanitarian aid was equally distributed to refugee camps, and to provide daily security assessment patrols.
He said part of their deployment was to work as police advisors to the local Sudanese police and identify gaps in the local police and then provide training analysis.
“Most of reports that we received were gun offences, which was quite new and different to us,” he said.
“The mission is specifically to identify the cause of internal conflicts, and provide projects to alleviate those causes.”
Sergeant Metopa said the contingent felt the weight of the nation on their shoulders and the expectation to perform.
He said gaining the people’s trust was one thing he hoped the next contingent would be able to show whilst in Sudan.
“Our upbringing back in the islands of respecting elders has really helped us a lot in the mission,” he said.
“Many of the community elders really liked the way we approached them in the community, which is similar to how we treat our elders back in the village.”
Sergeant Metopa said Solomon Island’s inclusion in the UN mission shows the improved capability the RSIPF has in participating in regional and global affairs.
Five more RSIPF officers have been given the green light by the UN to serve as part of the next contingent to serve in Sudan.
By: Lowen Sei