23 July 2020
Category : Interview
“Niger, with its diverse culture and ethnicity, is a country of opportunities"Fernando Guerrero in FIIAPP's office
“Niger, with its diverse culture and ethnicity, is a country of opportunities”
Fernando Guerrero, a commissioner with the Spanish Police and head of mission, tells us about his experience as a FIIAPP expatriate with the ECI Niger project. This project is funded by the European Union through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and managed by FIIAPP. It fights criminal illegal immigration and human trafficking networks in Niger.
What was it like when you arrived in Niger? Do you have any anecdotes about that time?
I arrived at dawn in Niamey in September 2018. It was my first time in the Sahel. We had hardly had any sleep, the next morning, we went to the city centre accompanied with the coordinator. The colours, smells, landscape, the hubbub of the market, the crowds of people, the heat, and the extreme poverty… everything vied for my attention and left me a memory firmly engraved in my memory that I will never forget. As an anecdote, I remember that on the first day I noticed how local food products such as moringa with peanut paste were made and sold in the market. This seemed strange to me to start with but now they are a staple part of my diet.
And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you?
In my opinion, if you are aware of the country you are going to and are willing to immerse yourself in the local culture, it’s much easier to adapt. Niger, with its varied culture and ethnicity, is a land of opportunities.
Some customs are strange to me, like polygamy and its rules. Also, the fact that much of the population, due to historical and social circumstances, and beyond the begging you might expect, see white people as the solution to all their problems and do not hesitate to ask for financial help at all times, even when they don’t know you at all.
Treating local people decently makes it easier to integrate. People welcome you into their homes with kindness, so you can get to know how they live.
Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left?
Yes, this is the first time I’ve lived away from Spain on a continuous basis. Most of the time I had spent abroad before this was in Eastern Europe. I arrived in Niger on 21 September 2018 and I’m scheduled to leave in December 2022.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
ECI Niger is a unique project, in the sense that it is a mission with an operational police component. We experts are part of the structure of the Nigerian National Police. We participate with them in operations and advise them on everything to do with police operations. We also deal with different local authorities, with the European Union Delegation; with embassies, with other projects and missions to achieve better coordination, and, of course, with FIIAPP, our operator.
The routine is different from the one I had in Spain. One component that is always important, but which is an essential priority here is diplomacy. My experience during my career in the police force is something I share with my teammates and it is essential to the success of the project. Local authorities value that experience and may feel offended if the expert lacks it.
How are relations with the FIIAPP?
We have an outstanding relationship. I have great appreciation for FIIAPP’s efforts to manage a pioneering operational police project. I also value the understanding that our coordination team shows with the daily difficulties that we professionals who are “in the field” have.
How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
My personal and professional experience in Niger is priceless. I am fortunate to have an excellent team of professionals and people. Having worked with the National Police since 1994, working with FIIAPP professionals gives me a new point of view that enables me to grow professionally.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of the person who write them.