On International peacekeepers day, celebrated on May 29 every year, MONUC force commander General Babacar Gaye explains the significance of the day, and asks blue helmets in the DRC to continue their engagement to consolidate peace and stability in the country.
What is the significance of International Peacekeepers Day for you?
International peacekeepers day was instituted to pay homage and tribute to the vocation of providing basic assistance and security to populations who suffer in conflict countries. I believe it's important as it recognises the sacrifices made by blue helmets, as they strive to improve the security situation in many parts of the world.
For us in Congo, it's a day of reflection on our work and achievements here.
What are your impressions of peacekeepers here in DRC?
I have a good impression of the soldiers here, in terms of what they have achieved. Our action allowed us to organise the electoral process, the result of a long political process.
I have the habit of saying that our action allows us to bring a feeling of security to the places where we're deployed. Equally, our action maintains a certain stability which deters certain hostilities, and finally our robust operations also helps to stabilise many regions, with the surrender of militias and the repatriation of local populations.
What does it mean to be a good peacekeeper?
In my opinion, being a soldier of peace more precisely in a mission under Chapter VII, it is certainly the most complete way of using force, given that as our action profits from very important coercive means.
We have mechanised units, attack helicopters, and moreover we remain impartial with the population, and we don't ever lose the view that our primary mission is first and foremost to protect the local population.
In all these considerations, the multidimensional character of the mission in which we serve puts all the soldiers into many different arenas of activity than what they would be engaged in within their own countries. It is in this way that I consider that this maintenance of peace under Chapter VII as one of the most sophisticated forms of the use of force.
You have served in many peacekeeping missions. In your opinion, what is the difference between this mission and the others?
I served in many peacekeeping missions, all of which were very different to Congo, including the Ramadan war, in the Sinai in Egypt, deployed between two regular armies. I was also in South Lebanon in 1980.
In terms of the mandate, in relation to Chapter VII, this is where we have evolved in a different way in terms of what we do here. It is true also that my responsibilities are in some ways different. I think that all missions have a stabilising effect, if not then the situation needs to be evaluated so that some stability evolves.
Therefore, I think all peacekeeping operations have their own logic and are overall very important for the populations in which they are deployed.
What message do you have for the troops here?
The message that I want to give to the soldiers is that I have the big honour to be first of all their commander, and to express the gratitude of the Special Representative who is the boss here of all we do, in order to give the population some comfort and security. There is also a need to continue our work as there is a lot left to do.
Before this commemoration, the recent massacre at Kanyola on Saturday night last is there to remind us that there is a lot left to do in this country. Therefore I want to express my pride at their important work, and to ask all blue helmets to continue the good work.