The Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF)’s civil engineering unit dispatched to South Sudan came back to Japan and on May 30, a ceremony to return a flag of the unit to Minister of Defense Inada was held officially in a solemn atmosphere at the Ministry’s large auditorium. Prime Minister Abe’s ceremonial address was very impressive, and thus, all soldiers of the unit as well as the concerned people felt being rewarded for their efforts. All the guests participating in this ceremony also felt that they were proud of these soldiers.
The GSDF’s civil engineering unit has been dispatched to South Sudan eleven times since South Sudan became independent. A total of 4,000 soldiers have been engaged in the construction of roads, villages, and infrastructure in the country’s land aiming at the building of peace. This activity has lasted for five years and four months.
There has been no accident resulting in a soldier’s death. They have acted under strict discipline and achieved their initial purpose. As a result of it, they have been highly valued and praised not only by the South Sudan Government but also by the international society. The so-called ‘kaketsuke-keigo’ newly adopted under the
Legislation for Peace and Security was given to the last unit to return to Japan as an additional duty. (The word, ‘kaketsuke-keigo’ has not yet translated into English officially by the Government. Tentatively, it means ‘the GSDF’s dispatch of soldiers to rescue the people under the attack’).
Looking back on the past, the activities of the GSDF’s civil engineering unit in South Sudan have changed with the times. It was 1992 (4 Heisei Era) when the GSDF started its overseas activities participating in the UN Peacekeeping Operations. In 1992, during the first term after I had been elected a member of the House of Representatives for the first time, I was fully involved in the fierce fighting between the ruling party and the opposition parties concerning the Bill on the International Peace Cooperation Act enacted in the same year. Since then, with regard to the peacekeeping issues, the ruling party and the opposition parties have been fighting, as repeated at the time of the Bill on the ‘Legislation for Peace and Security’ and that of the ‘Tero-To-Junbi-Zai’ (the Offense to Criminalize an Act in Furtherance of Planning to Commit Terrorism and Other Serious Crimes). However, I am convinced that the LDP’s thoughts and the concrete policies have been correct fundamentally.
Photo: Head of the GSDF unit, South Sudan, Tanaka (Left), Prime Minister Abe (Right)