It's never a good idea to write when you're angry, and I'm fuming. The head of the UN is making us all look like fools, I feel humiliated and angry that I have been put in this position, that I'm being forced into making a decision about staying on and working here (though I wonder whether I should be jeopordising an opportunity to put myself through law school next year if I leave - at least this is a tentative future plan).
Anyone following this saga has no doubt seen the very public argument between the head of the UN mission here and his deputy who was sacked a few days ago 'in the interests of the mission', because he didn't think we should be supporting these elections. Of course we shouldn't.
The other day I sent a letter to my head of office who was on her way to Kabul for a heads of office meeting. She asked us if there were any issues we wanted to raise. I wrote that I wanted to know what the UN's official response was going to be to the issues of widespread fraud throughout the country, and what our 'line' should be to the people with whom we have spent months and years building relationships, people who now trust us and come to us for help.
Over the last few weeks since the elections, we have been working hard to get people's perceptions of the process, particularly from Provincial Council candidates. We have carefully collected and recorded incidents of fraud and passed these on to HQ.
A lot of people in the Southeast region are angry and want to see how our organisation will respond. We have been told in no uncertain terms that the local population will no longer respect or support us unless we speak out strongly against this fraudulent election.
It is incredibly demoralising. I had no interest in these elections in the first place, how can elections be held in the middle of an insurgency? How can they be monitored? How can those crooks working close to or for the 'Independent' Election Commission be held accountable? So much of the actual work we do here can be useful, but everything is being eclipsed by these wretched elections, and they are wretched in every sense.
So yes, I want my boss to ask the head of this organisation how, in light of our mandate - which was to support an election that was free, fair and transparent and given that it was none of these - how he intends to uphold our credibility, and how he views the damage to our reputation, particularly in light of the dismissal of his deputy?
Yesterday I met with 30 Sunni tribal elders from the Kurram Agency across the border in Pakistan. They want the Afghan government to help them. At the moment they are trapped, their villages are surrounded by a dominant Shi'a sect who are refusing to let them pass through to northeastern Paktya to get supplies and medical assistance. I met with the provincial Governor afterwards and we are setting up a meeting in a few days with Shi'a tribal elders to hear their side; we will hopefully then bring both sides together to negotiate some form of settlement.
The other week I was in Khost to speak to the deputy governor and elders from two warring tribes following a land dispute, which has already resulted in a number of deaths on both sides. I got UNHCR involved to deal with displaced families and am (still) working on getting local security forces to the area.
I have no idea whether any of these efforts will pay off in the long-term, or whether we do add any value here. I hope at the very least we don't make things worse. But being that bridge and having people come to ask us to mediate is incredibly rewarding and I am proud to work for this organisation in so many respects because I am convinced we can do a lot of good. Yet I am now forced to think about resigning over this stupid election, when it represents so little of the actual work we do here.
I just had to duck under my desk because I'm hearing a lot of gunfire right outside my office. More later.
[added afterwards - it was actually a wedding, but my insides have already turned to jelly. Urgh. We use confetti in the UK, maybe the Afghans could have a think about that. I was interested to note my reaction in that I didn't run for the bunker or put on my flak jacket or helmet which are here beside me, but hovered around the window looking for someone to tell me what was going on. Duh.]