That peacekeeping is dangerous – often fatal – and particularly in Africa is again borne out by this year’s list of recipients of the Dag Hammarskjold Medal.
All told 119 peacekeepers that died in the line of duty between May last year and May 1 this year will be honoured by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a commemorative event at UN headquarters in New York next Friday (24 May).
The troop contributing country which suffered the largest loss of peacekeepers is Chad with 16 deaths reported –all from the peacekeeping mission widely regarded as the most dangerous of the 14 the world body currently manages – MINUSMA (UN Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali).
The May to May 12 month period saw 37 deaths among MINUSMA personnel ranging from troops to police, civilians and UN volunteers.
That mission, now in its sixth year of existence, has the broad aim of supporting political process and helping to stabilise the West African country.
In terms of fatalities the second worst UN peacekeeping mission was another in Africa – MINUSCA. The multi-dimensional UN peacekeeping mission works on the security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) and reported 22 deaths.
Third on the list for reported deaths is MONUSCO. The UN organisation mission in the DR Congo took over from an earlier UN mission in the central African country in July 2010 and reported 21 deaths in the period under review.
Troop and police contributing countries which suffered notable losses include Bangladesh (12), Malawi (eight), Ethiopia, (seven) and Tanzania (six).
Other African UN peacekeeping and peace support missions where deaths were reported include UNMISS in South Sudan (15), UNAMID in the Darfur region of Sudan (seven) and UNISFA in Abyei (seven).
South Africa will mark UN International Peacekeepers Day on 29 May at the SA Army mobilisation centre outside Bloemfontein.
“The significance of this commemoration is to honour and pay tribute to SA National Defence Force members who died while serving under the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions Flag,” the SANDF said. The event will include wreath laying by the leadership of the SANDF and families of members who lost their lives.
Since the establishment of the SANDF, South Africa has lost 80 soldiers in peacekeeping and support operations in countries including the Central African Republic (CAR), Lesotho, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)and Burundi.