The United Nations on Friday honoured three Nigerians and 80 other military, police and civilian peacekeepers, who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2019.
The fallen heroes were posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal during a virtual award ceremony to mark the 2020 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.
Two of them, Henry Ukomadu, a police sergeant, and Moshood Lasisi, an Army warrant officer, died while serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The third fallen Nigerian peacekeeper, Gabriel Shogaolu, died while serving also with MINUSMA but in civilian capacity in 2017.
During the ceremony, streamed live on the UN website, the recipients’ names were announced and displayed on the screen alongside condolence messages from their countries’ Permanent Representatives to the UN.
In his message, Amb. Samson Itegboje, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria at the UN, extended the “deep condolences and heartfelt sympathies’’ of the Federal Government to the families and countries of the deceased.
Itegboje, who participated in the ceremony, currently serves as Chairman of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations on behalf of Nigeria.
Nigeria, one of the world’s largest troop contributors to the UN peacekeeping operations, was re-elected chair of the committee also known as C-34 for the 48th time in March.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who presided at the award ceremony, expressed gratitude to the 95,000 UN peacekeepers currently deployed around the world.
Guterres said “they are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic”.
He announced the death of two military UN peacekeepers (one from Cambodia and the other from El Salvador) killed by COVID-19 on Thursday and Friday.
“I now ask all of you, wherever you are, to feel strongly the solidarity with those families that are also permanently in our memory, in our attention.
“This is because they were the ones who suffered more to get less with those fallen in the line of duty,’’ the secretary-general said.
On the theme of this year’s event, “Women in Peacekeeping’’ that highlights their central role in UN operations, Guterres stated that women peacekeepers “play an essential role for the success of our peace operations’’.
“Day by day, women peacekeepers help improve all aspects of our operations and performance; they ensure better access to local communities.
“They prevent and reduce conflict and confrontation, and they serve as role models for their peers and others.
“As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security,” he asserted.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the ceremony also featured presentation of the UN Military Gender Advocate Award to two female peacekeepers.
The recipients are Commander Carla Araujo of the Brazilian Navy, deployed with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic, and Maj. Suman Gawani of the Indian Army, a Military Observer formerly with the UN Mission in South Sudan.