United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was in Mali on Tuesday to honour the service and sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world and mark the official International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
The north-west African country is the most dangerous place in the world to be a UN “blue helmet”, and last year 21 troops serving with the UN Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) died, along with seven civilians.
Shortly after arriving in Bamako the Secretary-General attended a ceremony at MINUSMA’s base in the capital to pay tribute to fallen peacekeepers. He laid a wreath at the memorial in the camp, engraved with the names of those killed in the service of peace.
“Dear peacekeepers, you have demonstrated you are capable of all forms of sacrifice. For many of your colleagues, this has meant the supreme sacrifice of giving their lives, to protect the lives of Malian civilians,” Guterres said at the ceremony. “I want to thank you for this effort, these sacrifices, to pay tribute to you and to say how proud I am to work with you.
“As peacekeepers you are the foremost symbol of the United Nations itself”, he added.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Mali, and Head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said honouring the fallen “warms the hearts of their comrades and encourages us to continue to defend even more resolutely the values of the United Nations”.
Medals for two peacekeepers
Guterres awarded medals to two peacekeepers serving with the mission, for their outstanding service: Commander Olufunmilayo Ajibike Amodu, from Nigeria, and Major Mohammad Badrul Ahsan Khan, from Bangladesh, a military staff officer based at Force headquarters.
“The medal is important. It symbolises what it is to be a peacekeeper at MINUSMA”, said Amodu. “Receiving it from the Secretary-General is a unique privilege.”
“The terrorists are not relenting in what they are doing. And obviously we are not backing out in what we have come to do”, she added, pointing to the worrying security situation in Mali, particularly in the central and northern areas where most of the violence between different armed groups and government forces is taking place. Troops with the mission have increasingly become the target of attacks.
For those interested in serving as ‘blue helmets’, Commander Amodu said: “The UN is all about peace. And when there is peace, there is development. When there is peace, there is promotion of technology. When there is peace, everything works the way it should. And for any person who wants to join MINUSMA, you should have in your mind that when you are coming, it is to support the peace process”.
Major Khan said in Bamako it was “a matter of pride and honour” to receive the medal. “In this world, we all have to be together. So, for better living, we have to ensure the peace. There is no better alternative to supporting each other”, he said adding MINUSMA was “a unique opportunity to serve”.