Moving On: Farewell to Africa (possibly)

Royal Armouries in Leeds – a favourite spot of mine to visit when trying to relax away from Central African Republic.

Well now, much has changed since my last blog one month ago. In that time an election has been held. No, really. It was really big news if you missed it. It’s over now and everyone is assured that the world’s lone superpower has a cool hand at the wheel with a deep understanding of foreign policy, and an innate understanding of military operations. Or something like that.

For a humanitarian aid worker in Central African Republic (CAR) such events have very direct consequences (rather like Brexit but I’m not going to get started on that little bunfight in this blog). The US government is the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid via its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. In view of the fact that one of the current buzzwords being thrown about in serious political circles is ‘isolationism’, I’d say that the humanitarian sector is anticipating that man’s inauguration with some trepidation. Still, he may surprise us all.

On a personal note I have – finally – decided to pull the pin on my life here in Central African Republic. I will leave at the end of my current contract which ends in early February. I won’t go into too much detail here as I’m currently interviewing for new posts elsewhere, but I’ll be looking to move away from my current job stream which sees me working in the battle against malaria. I must admit that having contracted malaria nine times (not a typo, I assure you), this brutal and very possibly fatal disease played a big part in my decision to move on. But it was time. The past two years in the remote northwest of CAR have delivered life experiences which are simply incomprehensible to those who have not lived through them. I’ve loved it though and I am deeply grateful to the humanitarian NGO which took me on and dropped me in the middle of nowhere.

Huddersfield’s most famous son? Quite possibly. No student of politics who resides in Huddersfield doesn’t doff his cap to Harold.

I’m writing this while on leave. I’m still beavering away on my dissertation and am fast approaching the point when I will be allocated to my individual supervisor. I’m pretty excited about discussing my ideas and what I’ve already written. I’m currently reading Condoleezza Rice’s memoir and that is provoking a good deal of thought concerning my dissertation (the theme attempts to draw a link between humanitarian aid and the foreign policies of donor governments). Aside from the simply staggering journey of her life – it really is a tribute to hard work and the pursuit of achievement, and a rise to the very highest strata of power – she is a brilliant author who is able to deliver first-hand accounts of some of the most controversial foreign policy decisions post-Cold War. Read it.

I do try to relax completely during my time away from CAR’s appalling humanitarian crisis. The dissertation actually forms part of that relaxation. Sitting at my desk with outstanding coffee, books, new journals, and time on my hands is a glorious counter to my rather fraught working life in CAR. Is that really relaxation though? Perhaps not. I enjoy the writing but I do enjoy getting out on the moors close to my home in the British climate (trust me, a life spent under a baking sun is not all it’s cracked up to be). I like popping out for curry, going running, swimming, doing the school run, walking round a supermarket with shelves packed with products which are outrageously bad for you – in fact, I like doing anything which removes me from working in a humanitarian crisis. Of course, I enjoy my job; in fact, I routinely describe it as the best job in the world, but the mind can only stretch so far before it needs a break.

And that’s a point worth making when related to study. Studying is enriching and empowering. It gives you the knowledge to contribute to life and change malfunctioning processes. But you can only do it for so long before your brain sends a request to go to the supermarket and look at banal Christmas stuff. Stuff helps.

About Richard Bretherick 13 Articles
Final year MA International Policy and Diplomacy student. After twenty years in the military I eventually landed a job in the humanitarian industry, and I'm currently in the far north of Central African Republic managing a program in the fight against malaria. I love my job and I'm very lucky that I can say that.

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