Bangladesh’s contribution to UN peacekeeping missions in Africa (Part II) Brigadier General Ilyas Iftekhar RasulUNAMSIL: Achievement of the Bangladeshi peacekeepers is commendable in UNAMSIL (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone). Late 1999, the state of UNAMSIL was at its lowest ebb, when the rebels of Sierra Leone (RUF) took peacekeepers as hostages and were closing in on the capital Free Town. At this juncture, two major TCCs withdrew their troops from the Mission but the lone Bangladesh contingent which was guarding Freetown International Airport halted RUF advance. UN sought an urgent assistance from Bangladesh for reinforcement and Bangladesh deployed a Brigade size force within the shortest possible time and turned the tide to UN’s favour. Subsequently, Bangladesh contingents were the pioneer in taking the full control of RUF-held territories of Kono, Mekini, Magbura, Mile 91, Lansar and Koinadugu. The President of Sierra Leone in 2003 visited Bangladesh to appreciate the significant contribution of the Bangladeshi peacekeepers in his country.
MONUC (DRC): In 2003, situations at Ituri Region of North Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) deteriorated fast when almost 10,000 personnel were killed due to internal fighting between the government force and the various warring factions. The French-led International Emergency Multi National Force (IEMNF), which was then deployed in the Region, was unable to tackle the situation and their use of maximum forces worsened the situation further. The UN decided to take control of the region from IEMNF and requested Bangladesh to deploy a Task Force (TF). Bangladesh responded positively and promptly. Bangladesh TF successfully took over the control from IEMNF and subsequently paved the way for deployment of a multinational brigade. In this mission, through the implementation of operations under Chapter VII, the area has been brought under UN control, resulting in the surrender of 15,000 militias, capture of 7000 weapons and 600,000 rounds of ammunition and explosives. Brigade Commander from Bangladesh and Bangladesh contingents played a significant role in these operations. The region is much peaceful now and two of our Infantry contingents supported by Air Aviation Units and Formed Police Units are currently deployed in the region.
Besides the success stories at Somalia, Sierra Leone, and Congo, Bangladesh peacekeepers also ensured successful surrender and disarmament of rebels and armed factions in Liberia and Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) and meticulous conduct of electoral process in Mozambique, Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, etc. Our peacekeepers also contributed significantly to the demining of large areas in Eritrea and Sudan. Moreover, Bangladesh Naval contingents in UNOCI and UNMIS, air contingents in MONUC and MINURCAT and Bangladesh Police in all the missions are working relentlessly, hand-in-hand with our army contingents, and upholding their professionalism and reputation.
Contributing factors for Bangladesh credibility: What makes Bangladeshi peacekeepers an acceptable and credible UN force in Africa? There are many contributing factors and some major ones, to my view, are:
a. They are a highly disciplined and professional force that maintains international standard vis-à-vis UN standard.
b. They maintain absolute neutrality in discharging their assigned duties in various missions.
c. They adhere completely to the given mandate and follow the principle of fair practices in operations.
d. They maintain a very cordial relationship with the people of the host nations and respect their culture and traditions.
e. They maintain a very strict code of conduct to ensure discipline inside the force.
In every mission, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have been able to win the hearts and minds of the local populace. The locals are very impressed by their professionalism in upholding the UN mandate. But what attract the people most are their civic actions/Quick Impact Projects (QIP) to improve the socio-economic condition of the people of the respective AOR. Our long experience of pacification programme in CHT, roles in various national development projects, disaster management, national election, etc. has helped our peacekeepers to apply the best practices from these activities in the mission areas. In fact, inspired by the good initiatives of the Bangladeshi forces, UN missions have now programmed budget for QIPs. QIPs include construction of roads, schools, hospitals/clinics, poultry farms, vocational training centre, etc.
However, deployment of our forces at far-off lands, hundreds and thousands of miles away from their families, has not been without losses. As of now, 98 of those valiant peacekeepers sacrificed their lives, mostly in Africa. Amongst them, 17 died from militia’s attack, 16 from plane/helicopter crashes, 25 of road accidents, 03 of suicide and the rest 37 died from various diseases.

Writer is a columnist for daily sun. He can be reached at:  HYPERLINK "mailto:ilyasrasul@gmail.com" ilyasrasul@gmail.com