Tomorrow (Thursday, May 19) the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers will be observed and a South African soldier who died while on peace support duty is one of the 128 who will posthumously receive the Dag Hammarskjöld medal.
Rifleman Toto Tom Malashe who was killed while deployed as one of the South African soldiers who did duty on the hybrid AU/UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) becomes the first SA National Defence Force (SANDF) member to be awarded the UN peacekeeping medal.
South Africa withdrew from the UNAMID mission at the beginning of April stating the Sudan government had made it increasingly difficult for proper logistic support to be provided to deployed soldiers.
The day will be marked at UN headquarters in New York and tomorrow’s ceremony will be the eighth year running that the world body will honour more than 100 Blue Helmets who died while serving in the cause of peace in the previous year.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will lay a wreath to honour all fallen peacekeepers and will preside over a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to 128 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations during 2015.
In a message to mark the Day, Moon said: “On this Day we honour our heroes – the more than one million men and women who have served under the United Nations flag with pride, distinction and courage since the first deployment in 1948. And we pay our highest tribute to the more than 3 400 peacekeepers who have lost their lives while in service during that period.”
Today, more than 105 000 uniformed personnel from 124 troop- and police-contributing countries serve under the blue flag, along with 18 000 international and national civilian staff and UN Volunteers.
In addition to maintaining peace and security, peacekeepers are increasingly charged with assisting in political processes; reforming judicial systems; training law enforcement and police forces; disarming and reintegrating former combatants; supporting the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said: “Over 120 000 men and women – military, police and civilians — today serve in 16 missions worldwide. Our peacekeepers are deployed in some of the world’s most dangerous and austere environments. Too many of them have paid the ultimate price while serving under the blue flag in the name of peace. Today, we pay tribute to their memory by rededicating ourselves to the ideals for which they have sacrificed so much.”
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, in tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The Assembly designated May 29 as the day because it was the date in 1948 when the UN’s first peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), began operations.
Commemorative activities will be held at UN headquarters on the 19th to enable the Heads of the Military Components of UN peacekeeping operations, who will be present in New York this week, to join the Secretary-General in observing the Day. UN peacekeeping operations, UN Information Centres and other UN offices around the world will observe the Day on or around May 29.