UNMISS marks 75 years of peacekeeping in the world’s newest country

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South African Nicholas Haysom, head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), used Monday’s (29 May) International Day of the Peacekeeper to provide an insight into what the blue helmets are about in the world’s newest country.

He told those attending an event in the capital Juba peacekeepers in South Sudan “build enduring partnerships with local communities and authorities, including traditional leaders, government counterparts, politicians, law enforcement personnel, military actors, women, children and the larger civil society for the cause of peace and progress, so South Sudanese can be masters of their common destiny”.

This year’s commemoration was doubly significant as the UN marked 75 years of peacekeeping operations. The theme—Peace Begins with Me—was palpable, pointed out by South Sudan’s Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Deng Dau Deng

“The theme is innovative and inspiring because it challenges each of us to look inwards and find our will to build peace with those around us,” he said.

Prior to the official ceremony, Haysom and senior UNMISS personnel inaugurated a memorial for 124 peacekeepers—civilian, military and police—who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of peace in South Sudan.

Another poignant moment came as flags were lowered and wreaths laid to honour the legacy of fallen peacekeepers, including a collective moment of silence in their memory.

Perhaps the most simple but heartfelt endorsement of the work UNMISS does in the world’s newest country as it makes the difficult journey from war to peace came from UNPOL officer Andree Abella.

“Serving for peace in South Sudan means the world for me. I come from the Philippines, one of the first members of the UN and I want to contribute to peace and stability in South Sudan,” she said.

In South Sudan 13 221 military, 1 468 police, 2 268 civilians and 408 UN volunteers, serve under the UN flag to help build a prosperous future.