Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Today a large gathering (or “shura”) was held to the North of Musa Qala. This was the first opportunity for locals whose area had come back into government control last November to engage with their local government leadership from Musa Qala.
The shura was held as a result of demands by the local population that they felt unrepresented in Musa Qala and that their problems were not being addressed. To answer this we arranged for the Acting District Governor, one Musa Qala District Shura (council) member and two Ministry of Rural Reconstruction and Development engineers to go to the Shawruz region and meet with village elders.
The shura was advertised from early morning by sending round the Afghan National Police (ANP) to spread the word. We weren’t sure how many would attend or whether people would be intimidated, but it was clear that the locals felt safe enough to come as I watched them wading across the wadi long before the appointed time.
The event itself, held outdoors on the banks of the wadi, attracted about 90 locals plus a similar number of very noisy children (first government action needed – send a school teacher to this area).
Much effort went into the planning of the shura and all the logistics were worked out by my military colleagues on the ground, together with the ANP and their UK and US mentors.
All of them were very keen to be supporting this civilian side of the mission, following on from their military successes last autumn. And for me to be present, my Close Protection pals and the FCO had to be satisfied that any possible threat was minimised.
That the event happened at all sends important messages: Afghan government representatives will go and meet their people at a time and place of their choosing; and the Afghan security forces with their international partners will ensure that such events will take place in safety. Long may it continue.
Back on the catering front, the top chef has retreated and we’re back to cold, congealed spam for breakfast. But I’m off on R & R next week, my first visit to the UK in 2009 and it’s clear I’ll have to do my bit to assist the 4 hostelries of Cartmel through the economic downturn.