The Memoirs of a Peacekeeping Soldier

Blogs
Lt. Col. Hassan Imam engaged in talks with Liberian rebel woman fighter for convincing her to disarm

On the occasion of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers being observed today, the writer shares his memoirs of the days, he served as Peacekeeper in Liberia.

By Lt. Col. Hassan Imam

May 29 is annually observed as an International Day to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication, and courage and to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

According to United Nations data, more than 3900 peacekeepers have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 102 last year. This year, the challenges and threats faced by our peacekeepers are even greater than ever, as they, like people around the world, are not only having to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, but also support and protect the people in the countries they are based in. They are continuing their operations to the best of their abilities and supporting the governments and the local populations, despite the risk of COVID-19.

2020 Theme: Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace

The theme for this year’s Day is “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace” to help mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Women peacekeepers make invaluable contributions to peacekeeping. They help improve overall peacekeeping performance, have greater access to communities, especially to women, and therefore, help in promoting human rights and protection of civilians. They also encourage women to become a meaningful part of peace and political processes; when diverse women participate in peace negotiations, the quality and durability of peace agreements increases, and when women are signatories of peace agreements, they are more likely to be implemented, which academic research shows helps to ensure sustainable peace and prosperity.

Pakistan had been among very important countries and one of the largest troop-contributors. Pakistan as instrument of foreign policy sends thousands of troops to support and maintain the global peace and stability.

Pakistan Contingent had been important for UN Mission in Bosnia and Kosovo in Europe. In Far East also Pakistan played important role in East Timor, Cambodia and Haiti Mission. While in Somalia, Pakistani Peacekeepers lost over twenty seven lives.

Former Corps Commander and Secretary Defence Lt. General Syed Athar Ali also took a heavy Contingent to Sierra Leone in 2001 and established a great reputation of Pakistan Peacekeepers, which led other Missions in line to Liberia, Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Sudan.

It is also worth mentioning here that present Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa had also led UN Peace Mission in Congo when he was Brigadier.

Today Pakistan is highly appreciated in UN Security Council for its efforts putting in to the Global Peace and Security.

Pakistan Civil Military Liaison Officer with a displaced child in UN Peace Mission area
Pakistan lady peacekeeper briefing her operational contingency plan to the UN official
Pakistan women soldiers in support operations, fighting, patrolling

UN peacekeeping missions involving Pakistan covered over 70 operations throughout different parts of the world. Pakistan had joined the United Nations on 30 September 1947, despite opposition from Afghanistan because of the Durand Line issue, and the first UN peacekeeping mission was established on 29 May 1948, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of a small number of UN military observers to the Middle East to form the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Since then, more than one million women and men have served in 72 UN peacekeeping operations, directly impacting the lives of millions of people and saving countless lives. Today, UN Peacekeeping deploys more than 95,000 military, police and civilian personnel in 13 operations.

To mark the Day at the UN Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General will lay a wreath in honor of all peacekeepers, who have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag over the past seven decades. And a virtual ceremony will be held at which the Dag Hammarskjold medal will be awarded posthumously to peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2019.  The Peacekeeping Gender Advocate of the Year award will also be presented at the virtual ceremony.

The Liberian rebels who agreed to disarm   

Peacekeeping, as defined by the United Nations is the practice of helping the countries torn by conflict, and creating conditions for sustainable peace. UN peacekeepers — usually military officers and regular troops alongside civilian personnel from many countries — monitor and observe peace processes that emerge in regions post-war and assist ex-combatants in implementing the peace agreements they have signed. Such assistance comes in many forms, including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development. Pakistan’s contributions have consisted mainly of regular military personnel, but also include paramilitary troops and civilian police officers as peacekeepers.

Writer with Gen. Daniel Ishmael Opande of UN Peace Mission and other Mission members

All operations are aimed at the resolution of conflicts, even through the use of force to be considered valid under the charter of the United Nations. Besides men, the proud Pakistani females are also standing shoulder to shoulder for the stability of Global Peace and Security. Currently, the Pakistani female soldiers are part of UN Mission in Congo.

On the occasion of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, I recall my days in Liberia Peace Mission, which also consisted of several Pakistani female soldiers, who actively took part and rendered services in medical, public information and all other sectors.

During those days, once I met a rebel woman fighter from Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) who had refused to disarm. It took almost two hours to convince her about the benefits and fortune after UN Forces’ deployment. I promised her that I will make their village children go to school and will renovate the school, will give every child clothes, books and one-month ration bags etc.

The village was far away and all the bridges on streams and rivers were destroyed. In one month we developed road network and repaired the bridges, developed and renovated the church and health unit.

Gen. Daniel Ishmael Opande of UN Peace Mission’s Commendation Letter for the writer

The village people demanded for fishing nets so we procured the fishing nets from Pakistan with special request by Pakistan Contingent Commander to Military operations directorate.

As a result of these efforts, the villagers got involved in healthy economic activities and earned their bread and butter, as the fishing was the main source of livelihood of whole village.

Meanwhile, we contacted the Senior Commander Lt General OFhore Diya, who was Chief of Staff of LURD Rebel fighters. He was pressurized politically, as they were demanding the rehabilitation of entire country.

Later the Force Commander and Political Adviser also joined the Peace Forces and respectfully they asked the rebel fighter to disarm to UN for better future of Liberia.

UN Peace Missions Tank

Certainly, sometimes we also resorted to the use of force at some places, as the local rebel commanders were not cooperating. We had to use Ukraine Gunship Helicopters for combat patrolling, but it was just show of force. At some places tanks broke down the barriers and road blocks forcefully though UN Political Adviser was of opinion not to use tanks but Pakistan Contingent Commander and General Daniel Ishmael Opande, hailing from Kenya and a highly professional UN Peace Mission leader, decided using the tanks. The UN Security Council also allows use of force at some occasions if needed.

______________________

Lt. Col. Hassan Imam, hailing from Larkana district, Sindh had served as UN Peacekeeper in a largest Mission in Liberia from December 2003 to Jan 2005. He was awarded UN Peace Medal and Letter of Commendation from UN Force Commander General Daniel Ishmael Opande.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *