Peacekeepers’ Day celebrated across South Sudan

29 May 2013

Peacekeepers’ Day celebrated across South Sudan

29 May 2013 - International Day of UN Peacekeepers was celebrated today across South Sudan today with military marches, readings of the Secretary-General's message, cultural songs, dances and sporting events.

Referring to the Day's theme "UN peacekeeping: Adapting to new challenges", Secretary-General Bam Ki-moon said in his message that the organization was altering its policies to better bring lasting peace to war-torn countries.

Giving an example, Mr. Ban said, "Peacekeepers in Mali will operate under tough conditions marked by armed groups that threaten national and regional security. The mission will help stabilize the country, foster national reconciliation and protect civilians."

But the Secretary-General also noted that peacekeeping will always carry risks. One hundred and eleven peacekeeping personnel died last year, and more than 3,100 lost their lives during the UN's 65-year history of peacekeeping. "We salute their bravery and mourn their passing."

In South Sudan, several state celebrations also honoured peacekeepers who had died in the country.

"Today, we mourn the loss of four brave souls who lost their lives working for peace, security and humanitarian assistance here in Lakes in the last 12 months," said UNMISS Lakes State Coordinator Sunaina Lowe at an event in Rumbek.

As part of the Day's celebration, UNMISS has begun erecting road safety traffic signs around the town.

Following a military parade and musical performance in Bentiu, Unity, State Governor Taban Deng Gai told a gathering at the town stadium that the recent deaths of seven peacekeepers in Jonglei confirmed that the mission still had much to do.

"As we embark on doing this work let us remember progress can be reversed by those who are bent on frustrating our desire for peace," the governor said.

UNMISS UnityActing Coordinator Kirsten Young noted that the first ever UN peacekeeping mission had been set up in 1948 to monitor the ceasefire after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which was the same year the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was adopted.

Referring to the deaths of peacekeepers in Jonglei, Northern Bahr El-Ghazal Deputy Governor Madut Dut Yel told a crowd at Aweil Freedom Square, "We felt very sad about the deaths of peacekeepers while trying to assist our people come out of conflict."

In the Warrap State capital of Kuajok, UNMISScommemorated the Day with a photo exhibition, which was attended by about 250 people, including Acting Governor Akech Tong Aleu. About thirty pictures depicting UNMISS' work in South Sudan were exhibited throughout the day.

"We appreciate UNMISS presence in Warrap and commitments towards supporting Warrap State in protecting civilians and facilitating dialogue within the state with the view of ensuring peace prevails," Mr. Aleu said at the event.

In Malakal, Upper Nile State, the Indian Battalion organized a free one-day medical camp for more than 3,000 cattle infected with various diseases.

"The role of this (Indian) force is acknowledged by the government because some of them (have been) wounded and others lost their lives for the sake of this nation," said State Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Rural Development Elijah Lieg Bany.

Eastern Equatoria Deputy Governor Jerome Gama Surur told a gathering at Torit's Freedom Square, "It is right for us to remember those who have lost their lives in trying to promote peace, not only in South Sudan, but in Africa and the entire World."

UNMISS Eastern EquatoriaState Coordinator Hiroko Mosko said she hoped South Sudan would follow the steps of peacekeepers present in the country. "I am certain...that someday, (South Sudanese) forces will join peacekeeping operations to help other countries."

In Bor, the capital of strife-torn Jonglei State, students of the Royal Junior Academy performed a drama and recited poems, urging local people to support peacekeepers during their operations.

State Deputy Governor Hussein Maar Nyuot noted that peacekeepers were concerned about the lives of innocent people and also sacrificed their own lives. "Just like the Gumuruk incident in Jonglei State two months ago, where some peace keepers ... (were) killed. They also die like us."

The governor called on UNMISS to double its efforts by increasing the number of peacekeepers in Jonglei State to maintain peace and stability in the region.

Speaking during an event at UNMISS headquarters in Yambio, Western Equatoria Deputy Governor Sapana Abui Sapana commended peacekeepers for their efforts to protect civilians in the young nation, which had been devastated by long civil wars.

Also attending were 59 children from Young Angels and Garacia Nursery primary schools, who recited poetry and competed in a drawing exercise. Prizes included balls, watches, pens, staplers, crayons and drawing materials.