South Africa and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in particular will on Monday – along with the rest of the world – mark International Peacekeepers Day.
A commemorative parade will be held at 44 Parachute Regiment in Bloemfontein to honour the 39 South African soldiers killed since the country became an active troop and equipment supplier to both African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) continental peacekeeping and peace support missions.
44 Para is home to an SANDF wall of remembrance and indications are Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will be in attendance.
The single biggest loss of life suffered by South African forces deployed continentally since democracy was the ill-fated Battle for Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013 where 15 elite soldiers were killed and a further 27 wounded in what has been described as “a vicious firefight”.
The fatalities were all members of 1 Parachute Regiment and 5 Special Forces Regiment. Informed estimates are the South Africans faced up to more than 600 rebels with only platoon level weapons and six-wheeled Gecko vehicles to defend themselves.
Monday’s commemoration at the Tempe military base will be the first time Private Moalosi Mokhothu, who served with MONUSCO in the DRC, and Corporal Edward Mnyipikai, who was deployed with UNAMID in Sudan, will be honoured in their own country. They were posthumously presented with the Dag Hammarskjöld medal by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during an International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers commemorative event at UN headquarters in New York earlier this week.
South African military personnel and equipment are currently only deployed to one UN mission on the continent – MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo – where more than one thousand three hundred SANDF personnel are part of the Force intervention Brigade (FIB). This UN peacekeeping deployment has an offensive tasking and the home-grown Rooivalk combat support helicopters of 16 Squadron have proven themselves up for the job. A far smaller SANDF deployment is based in Kinshasa assisting with training of the DRC military forces.
South Africa previously contributed troops and equipment to the UNAMID mission in Darfur, but withdrew from Sudan last year.