UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to 129 military, police and civilian personnel, including three Nigerians, who lost their lives in 2017 while serving under the UN flag.
Guterres paid tribute to the peacekeepers at the commemoration of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 2018 at the UN Headquarters in New York, U.S.
He commended the services and sacrifices made by fallen heroes for peace around the world.
The three fallen Nigerian peacekeepers included Lt.-Col. Ali Suleiman, who served with the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The others were Warrant Officer Remmy Amakwe, who was deployed with the African Union–United Nations Mission in Darfur; and Mr Kolawole Shogaolu, who served in civilian capacity in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali.
Nigeria is the 41st largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping, according to a recent statistics.
It currently contributes more than 500 military and police personnel to the UN peace operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Lebanon, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan and the Western Sahara.
“Most of them were deployed far from home, while others served in their own conflict-affected countries as national staff. Every one of them made our world a better place,” Guterres said.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, marked annually on May 29, was established by the General Assembly to pay tribute to uniformed and civilian personnel for their contributions to the work of the UN.
Guterres spent the 2018 event with peacekeepers at the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, where 169 military, police and civilian peacekeepers have lost their lives.
He awarded a medal to a Nigerian peacekeeper, Cdr. Olufunmilayo Amodu, serving with the Mission for her outstanding service – an acknowledgement of the contributions of Nigeria to UN peacekeeping operations to ensure global peace and security.
The UN chief said he was deeply impressed by the work being done by all personnel in the mission, in spite of challenges.
“Threatened by terrorists, criminals and armed groups of all kinds, they are helping to build peace, to protect civilians and guarantee the political process,” Guterres said.
Since the first peacekeeping mission deployed 70 years ago, more than one million men and women have served under the UN flag, saving countless lives just as over 3,700 `blue helmets’ have paid the ultimate price over the past seven decades.
“These peacekeepers gave their lives to protect the lives of others. We are forever in their debt, and they are always in our hearts,” Guterres said at a wreath-laying ceremony.
He said the year 2017 recorded the highest number of fatalities – 132 individuals from 37 countries – for UN peacekeepers as a result of malicious acts, the highest in many years.
Currently, more than 96,000 uniformed personnel from 124 countries serve under the blue flag, alongside more than 15,000 international and national civilian staff and nearly 1,600 UN Volunteers.