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Felix Ngoma’s humanitarian work

WHEN you hear Felix Ngoma, who was recently abducted and later released by the Janjaweed in Darfur, South Sudan, talk about continuingwith his humanitarian work, you get to understand why.
His life’s work has been dedicated to humanitarian work since 1989.
He has been to some of the most trouble-torn countries, and seen the need for humanitarian work.
“If you see the suffering which goes on out there, then you understand the need for humanitarian work,” he says.
Mr Ngoma’s turf has largely been the African continent. You can say he is a friend of refugees.
He was among the first persons to work at Ukwimi Refugee camp in the Eastern Province that housed Mozambican refugees following the armed conflict between RENAMO (Mozambique Resistance Movement) and FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique).
The refugee camp was set up in 1987 and hosted over 20,000 Mozambicans for nearly a decade. After the repatriation of Mozambican refugees, it evolved into a government-run agricultural resettlement scheme until its reopening as a refugee camp for Angolan refugees in 2001.
Mr Ngoma, who started work in the Eastern Province provincial planning unit in 1986 before being seconded to Save the Children US as a social development officer, worked at the camp until 1993 when the first repatriation of Mozambican refugees took place.
Thereafter, Mr Ngoma, who has skills in logistics, politics, coordination, budgeting, planning, governance, policy, government, non-governmental organisations, international development, programme management, stra-tegic planning, negotiation, fundraising, strategy development, conflict, non-profits, international relations and team building, went to Canada for his higher education having previously attended Katete Secondary School.
While at school in Canada, Care Canada spotted him, and after his graduation, he was offered a job at Care Zambia, whose offices were in the light industrial area in Lusaka. He worked there for about a year.
While in Canada, he had a South African colleague who upon his return to his country became a senior civil servant. At that time, the then Euro-pean Commission (EC) was running a project in South Africa and they wanted a non-South African to work as a liaison officer.
So, Mr Ngoma’s colleague alerted him to the job opportunity, and that is how he left for South Africa in 1998. He was initially to spend two years as the South African government wanted their national trained with the aim of eventually taking over. However, when his two-year contract expired, they decided to renew it.
But then, the country leader said there was another project in Tanzania; and so, he was sent there for another two years. Afterwards, there was a vacant post in a church organisation which was working at Nangweshi and Mayukwayukwa Refugee camps in Zambia, which were housing refugees from Angola.
However, the position for which Mr Ngoma was interviewed by the organisation in the United Kingdom was subsequently given to a Briton despite having passed the interviews. Instead, he was given another position.
But he did not stay long as Africare head-hunted him to go and work at Ukwimi, which was reopened in 2001 to accommodate Angolan and Rwandan refugees. Mr Ngoma worked there until 2004 when a vacancy opened at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), an inter-governmental organisation working in the field of migration.
Again, he did not apply but was merely head-hunted. This was in October 2004 when the repatriation of Angolan refugees was taking place and Mr Ngoma was in charge of transporting them as operations and repatriation officer.
In 2006, he took a year off to go and do his post-graduate studies before being sent to East Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2007. He was tasked with establishing offices and looking at ways of transporting refugees who were at Kala camp in Kawambwa. After that, he moved to Angola and then Mozambique to help officers there.
From there, Mr Ngoma went to Khartoum, Sudan, to work at an IOM sub-station that covered the Blue Nile, Upper Nile and Abyei regions. At the time South Sudan was agitating for independence, he was moved to Juba. There, he was in charge of the movement of almost 650,000 people within three months.
“This operation was a big challenge, it didn’t need the faint-hearted,” he says.
Mr Ngoma then became sub-regional repatriation co-ordinator and started repatriating Sudanese who were in the neighbouring countries.
In Ethiopia, it was not easy as the government does not allow foreign aircraft but nonetheless, he was allowed as he chartered what he says are highly sought-after military transport planes from South Africa. He then started building logistical conduciveness at the airport which he says is similar to the one in Mumbwa. The Ethiopian government also gave him storage facilities for the supplies.
Part of his training has been in elections, and this has seen him being part of the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU-EOM) to Zambia in the 2006 elections.
Its report on the tripartite elections of that year reads: “The 28 September 2006 presidential, parliamentary and local government elections were generally well-administered, largely peaceful and offered voters a wide range of candidates to choose from in a genuinely competitive process.
“The conduct of the tripartite elections demonstrated improvement in comparison to the elections of 2001. The high turnout on election day suggests a strong commitment of the people of Zambia to further the democratic development of their country.”
Elections have also seen Mr Ngoma, who describes himself as a villager from Petauke, in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya as part of the EU-EOM.
The Kenyan election that he monitored is the one that led to violence in 2007 after then incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner against his opponent from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Raila Odinga.
Mr Ngoma says during that time, he was only allowed to fly after the Kenyan skies were closed.
He was also seconded by the IOM to run the out-of-country voting when South Sudan was voting for secession from Sudan. He was made in charge of Africa but as the man in charge of Europe failed to meet the qualifications, Mr Ngoma was made to oversee the process there which saw him criss-crossing a number of countries such as the United Kingdom, Egypt and Mali to collect results. The final result was that 99.2 percent voted for secession.
Thereafter, he came back to Lusaka but the Geneva offices of IOM asked him to help the Angolan office before being requested to go back to Ethiopia.
It was then that he was requested to move to Darfur, where as it has been reported, was abducted.
For now, Mr Ngoma, married to Mary Katongo, a former Zambia Co-operative Federation managing director with whom he has four children including two who are attending the University of Namibia, is back home for some rest before embarking on another humanitarian mission.

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