Tomorrow is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers and Africa will be strongly in focus with an event in South Africa and the UN Secretary-General visiting blue helmets in Mali.
The South African event takes place at the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) mobilisation centre at De Brug where a wall of remembrance will be unveiled. Wreaths will be laid by the SANDF leadership and families of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving on peacekeeping and peace support missions.
UN secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be in Mali, widely accepted as one of the most difficult and dangerous UN peacekeeping deployments, to “express my solidarity with colleagues facing high casualties and enormous volatility”.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of UN peacekeeping, the flagship enterprise of the world body described by Guterres as “a proven investment in global peace, security and prosperity.”
“We express our gratitude to the more than a million men and women who have served under the UN flag, saving countless lives. We honour the more than 3,700 blue helmets who paid the ultimate price over the past seven decades. And we pay tribute to the 14 peacekeeping missions working around the clock to protect people and advance the cause of peace,” he said in a message to mark the day.
At a time of increasingly complex conflicts and rising peacekeeper fatalities, Guterres said: “As we recognise a legacy of service and sacrifice around the world, I am also committed to taking Action for Peacekeeping – action to make our operations more effective and safer in today’s challenging environments.”
Guterres will preside over the observance of the International Day of Peacekeepers at UN headquarters in New York on Friday 1 June. He will lay a wreath to honour those who lost their lives in the service of peace and officiate at a ceremony to posthumously award the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to the 129 military, police and civilian personnel who died in peacekeeping operations during 2017.
Among fallen peacekeepers to be honoured is South African private Nomathemba Ngeleka, who was deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of MONUSCO.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping and to honour the memory of those who died in the cause of peace. The UN General Assembly designated 29 May as the Day because it was the date in 1948 when the first UN peacekeeping mission – the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation — began operations in the Middle East.