Srebrenica Massacre Haunts UN Peacekeeping
UN peacekeeping hit a rock-bottom low when blue helmets in Bosnia failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, a year after peacekeepers pulled out of Rwanda as it was convulsed by mass atrocities.
The debacles in Bosnia and Rwanda loom large over UN peace operations to this day and have brought about a shift toward more robust missions focused on protecting civilians.
Two decades later, UN peacekeepers are still tested in their mandate to protect, from South Sudan to Haiti.
- SOUTH SUDAN -After violence broke out in Juba in July last year, peacekeepers abandoned their posts and failed to respond to pleas for help from aid workers under attack in a nearby hotel compound. South Sudanese soldiers gang-raped foreign aid workers and killed a local colleague in the July 11 attack at the Terrain hotel. Victims phoned UN peacekeepers stationed a mile away and begged for help, but none came. The Kenyan commander of UNMISS was dismissed after a UN report showed a failure to protect civilians.
- MALI -Described as the most dangerous UN mission in the world, MINUSMA has lost 149 peacekeepers to jihadist attacks since 2013, the highest toll of all current UN peace operations. Peacekeepers are seen by insurgents as foreign occupiers in the vast lawless north of Mali.
- CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC -The MINUSCA mission faces scores of allegations that its peacekeepers sexually abused vulnerable women and girls. The mounting cases have seriously damaged the UN's reputation. The United Nations maintains that its peacekeeping force deployed in the Central African Republic saved the country from genocide in 2013. But violence between armed groups in the countryside has increased this year.
- DR CONGO -The vast country in the heart of Africa hosts the UN's biggest mission, MONUSCO, with some 21,000 personnel including 16,000 troops. Heavily deployed in the east, the peacekeepers were largely absent when violence broke out in the Kasai region this year, reportedly killing thousands. Nearly 90 mass graves have been identified in the Kasai where MONUSCO has since set up new operations.
- HAITI -The United Nations closed its 13-year peacekeeping mission in Haiti this year, but Haitians were not sorry to see it go. A deadly cholera epidemic that broke out in 2010 was traced back to Nepalese soldiers serving in MINUSTAH. More than 10,000 people died and 815,000 people have fallen ill from cholera. It took six years for the United Nations to apologize for the disaster.
- KOSOVO -Hundreds of ethnic Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo were resettled by UN peacekeepers in camps contaminated by lead after the 1998-1999 war. It took over 10 years for the UN mission to relocate the people to a safer area even though it was aware of the health risk since 2000. In May, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres set up a trust fund to help those affected.
- GOLAN HEIGHTS -As the war in Syria raged in August 2014, fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front crossed a UN-monitored demarcation line in the Golan Heights and seized dozens of UN peacekeepers from far away Fiji while trapping dozens more from the Philippines who were in their UNDOF camps. The Filipino peacekeepers managed to escape and the Fiji contingent was released two weeks later. UN peacekeepers returned to the camp on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights two years later.
Some 110,000 peacekeepers are deployed in 15 peace operations worldwide.