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#138 Rebels, Militias and Freedom Fighters

February 20, 2012

submitted by D, edited by SgS

Part of being enigmatic when talking about being an expat aid worker or blogging for the folks back home is casually dropping in names of things, places and people who those with regular jobs and mundane lifestyles have not even remotely heard of.

An especially effective way to do this is to mention a rebel group.

The names of all rebel groups sound ridiculously similar to the uneducated ears of people back home — they are usually some combination of the words ‘popular,’  ‘liberation,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘justice’ and ‘front,’ ‘union,’ ‘force’ or ‘movement’.

So when the EAW drops in mention of rebels, the unenlightened noob’s confusion is cause for either annoyance or feelings of superiority. Things get increasingly difficult to explain to your average novice when there are more than 2 sides (“good” vs “bad”) in the local conflict. It’s better to just go all mysterious and say “it’s complicated” rather than try to explain. If they come back to you with a reference to Monty Python, just walk away. Rebel groups are not to be taken lightly.

Note to EAWs: to avoid such situations as the scenario above, it is advisable to use  acronymsYou’ll be on much firmer ground if you refer to JPF, PFJ, LRA, JEM, FUC, FNL etc.

Rebel groups matter to EAWs. And why wouldn’t they.

Rebel presence means that the EAW is doing some hardship living (and getting hardship pay!). Rebels remind the EAW that he is living in a dodgy place. And we all know EAWs like dodgy places.

When colleagues at the “Regional Conference on the Use of RCTs to Define and Shape Sustainable Mainstreaming of Successful Good Practice Related to Local Ownership and Crosscutting Holistic Gender Empowerment for Excluded Adolescent Girls based on Positive Deviance Methodology” think they are being all badass by casually dropping in news about their latest vacation in one dodgy place or another, as someone actually living there, it’s your EAW duty to trump them by reminding them that life in Militiaville is no cake walk, thus putting them in their place. 

Every once in a while some rebel faction splinters off and attempts or succeeds in attacking the ‘bad guys’ — usually the people in power. If you’re lucky, that happens just far enough from where you are for it to not really affect you but just close enough for you to feel ownership of the incident and empowered to put up either a breathless or bored tweet or Facebook status about it. It’s best to be the first to break the news by mentioning that your movement is restricted, there is now a curfew, or you’ve had to cancel your trip to ‘the field.’

While you post that status, you can simultaneously rejoice that your field cred is racking up right before your eyes, along with the additional dank perks you’ll  begin to accumulate as the place becomes hazardous.

In many cases, it’s rebels who give EAWs their raison d’etre; particularly if the EAW works in mapping and analysis of risks, conflict prevention, mitigationresolution (if we arrived too late), mediation etc. Rebels make life in ‘the field’ more colorful. They give the EAW that je ne sais quoi that provides the unbeatable arguments for bitching about HQ‘s incapacity to understand anything EAWs go through out there, why an online innovation project simply has little chances in the remote villages in our area of responsibility, and why their two-day monitoring visit is not a priority.

Rebels, militias and freedom fighters — what would the hardcore EAW do without them?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2012 12:38 pm

    It’s all about being slipping the mentions of danger into conversation casually, referred to as a minor annoyance – “Yeah I like working up there but the rebels really scare off the brewers so all the bars are kind of lame”

  2. February 20, 2012 1:50 pm

    Best friend calls me in Kabul. I pick up the phone and say hello. She launches into a tirade about how her ex has already started seeing some girl he met on OK Cupid —so soon!– and he’s such an asshole, and….she stops suddenly to ask me, “What’s that weird noise on your end?”

    “Oh, that,” I groan, “That’s the Taliban attacking something nearby. Carry on.”

    That’s how it’s done, folks.

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