Top UN official praises SA contribution to peacekeeping

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South Africa is singled out by the senior United Nations (UN) peacekeeping official for its continental contributions to the world body’s efforts to end conflict.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and SA Police Service (SAPS) earned a vote of thanks from Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under Secretary General for Peace Operations in the current “UN peacekeepers: service and sacrifice” campaign.

A statement has him thanking South Africa for its “strong support” to UN peacekeeping as well as for the “sacrifice and service of its military and police personnel deployed under the UN flag”.

South Africa first provided peacekeepers to the UN in 1999 when it joined the then UN Organisation Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). Today, South Africa provides 1 189 uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping, making it the 15th largest contributor among all UN member states.  It is the sixth largest contributor of women peacekeepers, with 230 now serving, according to the statement.

“South Africa’s largest deployment is with the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), where 1 184 peacekeepers serve. The country contributes police personnel to the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

“In recent decades, South Africa contributed to UN peace operations in Burundi, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Liberia and Nepal as well as to the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur, Sudan,” the statement has it.

Quoting La Croix, it states: “South Africa’s peacekeeping contributions over the years in DRC, through personnel deployed as part of infantry battalions, helicopter units and military medical teams, have been essential to efforts to build peace, as well as to ensure the health and safety of fellow peacekeepers. Additionally, the South African female engagement team’s outreach efforts significantly strengthened the mission’s relationship with Congolese communities”.

“The UN appreciates the service and sacrifice of South African men and women, past and present. We will always remember the 50 South African peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving under the UN flag.”

South Africa has endorsed Secretary-General Anotonio Guterres’ “Action for Peacekeeping (A4P)” initiative, which aims to strengthen peacekeeping through better targeted mandates, stronger and safer operations, better equipped and trained forces as well as mobilising support for political solutions.