Retrospective: Security Briefing

[Air France lounge, waiting for AF084 nonstop to San Francisco. A crazy morning, beginning with a call from Devon at 2 a.m. Palo Alto time saying Delta had woken her to say my flight out of Monrovia was cancelled. The flight most of our contingent was on. There are only a dozen flights out the entire week, so you can see how this might cause a bit of logistical scrambling. An hour on the phone to Delta, two hours standing in the same place in line at RIA trying to fix our itinerary. We gave up and just accepted that they’d get us to Paris and let us work out the rest. Crushed in the back of an overstuffed A320, overnight with a layover in Conakry (that’s the capital of Guinea, for you geo buffs). There, a wonderful wonderful AF desk agent (thank you Marie Annick Polydor!), juggled our itineraries to put us on a non-stop to SFO leaving in just a couple of hours. In business class.

So, about the backed up blog posts, here’s what I’m going to try: we’re almost exactly a week from when we, as election observers, went on media blackout. So I’m going to take all the stuff I wrote during that week and, rather than blasting it out all at once, I’m going to try cleaning it up a little and posting it in sequence, roughly timed as I wrote it, but a week late.]

Monrovia – Friday, 07 Oct 2011

More briefings with Davor, we learn the difference between preserving the “safety” and the “security” of the teams. Safety (remaining free of unintentional harm) turns out to cause the statistical lion’s share of the problems. Road accidents are the number one cause of injury and death for NGOs in the country. But security issues should not be underestimated for their potential to ruin your day.

We run though the check in procedures: three times a day, at 6-9 a.m., 12-3 p.m. and after 8 p.m. We’re prohibited from traveling alone, or at night, and are to check in upon departure from a site and arrival at the destination. If we’ll be in transit more than four hours, we’re also to check in every three hours.

I find myself becoming increasingly unnerved, as almost all of Davor’s examples involve my assignment area (“So, say you’re up in Nimba, and…”). I ask, explaining that he’s making me nervous.

“Why Nimba? Nothing’s happened in Nimba. Ummm, yet. Let me not be too detailed.”

I give him my best you’re-not-helping look.

“Okay, there’s a certain… ‘dynamic’ in the power struggle in Nimba that suggests it could be an, um… hot spot.”

“Look, my last three elections were Afghanistan, Afghanistan and Iraq – I have to justify my existence somehow.”

He’s definitely not helping.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s