Posted by: APO | 31 May 2008

DR Congo: B. Gaye – It is necessary to be fair and say that our first challenge is our behaviour

DR Congo: B. Gaye – It is necessary to be fair and say that our first challenge is our behaviour

Nina Yacoubian / MONUC

International Peacekeepers Day is celebrated each year on 29 May. This year MONUC Force commander General Babacar Gaye spoke on the evolution of the United Nations Blue Helmets, and the challenges for the future. Interview


What is the significance of this day for you?

This day is the day that the international community dedicates to the Blue Helmets, during which we feel at the centre of their concern.

It is a day when we feel honour and pride for all that we will do during the remainder of the year.

It is also a celebration day that we look forward to after a year marked by positive results, a year without incidents. Therefore, it is an important day for us.

How have MONUC Blue helmets contributed to the United Nations mission in the DRC?

When one considers this mission in the DRC, it is in many ways one of the most specific missions of the United Nations. This is because it is the largest mission in a country which is a pivotal country in Africa, and which has known years of violence and war.

Consequently, our contribution is seen through the today’s situation. There has been considerable progress made in the west of the country, in Ituri, in Katanga, and in other provinces like Maniema. And everywhere, MONUC forces, by their presence, constituted at one time or another the only force in which the population had total confidence.

I believe that we contributed, because we represented refuge and security, because of our actions, some of which were very robust, because of our availability, as during the elections where we were ready to undertake many tasks because it was necessary to arrive at a result.

What are the challenges for the future?

The challenges are initially geographically located. Today they are located in the Kivus. It is necessary to be fair and say that the first challenge is that of behaviour.

In the last months we had many articles in the press on our behaviour; we must accept it with much humility and use it to be even closer to the image that the population wants to be associated with a Blue Helmet, that of the exemplary soldier.

There are still the challenges in terms of using our resources, increasing our capacity to react. To react, it is necessary for us to react quickly, and there are always challenges in term of effectiveness.

All in all, we have a geographical challenge, a personal challenge in terms of image and a challenge of increased effectiveness.

What is what the United Nations doing to raise the personal challenges, in terms of good behaviour, in order to improve the image of the UN soldier?

Since the adoption of the code of conduct, we have the duty, at force level, to translate this code of conduct into clear and precise instructions for our troops deployed on the ground.

It is the object of a directive which is updated every year by taking account of experience and of the incidents which occurred during the previous year. Therefore, it is a permanent update.

The problem is not as much in the implementation of rules as in the behaviour of those who infringe the rules; the rules are well established.

We will try during 2008 to insist that the military police force is more preventive, that it tries to do more in the prevention of all these infringements.

As MONUC Force commander, what is the best and worst moments for the Blue Helmets in the DRC since the beginning of the mission in 1999?

When one is the chief, and one has the privilege to command from this level, one has responsibilities first of all. One has also very important motivations. That is to say, on one side, there is success, and one is the first to profit from it. The elections were for me a great moment of satisfaction. But when there are also difficulties, it becomes a large responsibility.

I believe that the loss of our Guatemalan soldiers in Garamba park was for me a very difficult moment, because it was a serious loss under very difficult circumstances, and there were of course other difficult moments, but ones which we must face.

For the remainder, it is of course all the mission incidents since my arrival in 2005: the events in Kinshasa in which I personally was on the ground, to negotiate between the personal soldiers of vice president Bemba and FARDC elements, and this led to a defusal of the situation. That was also an important moment, and I was there in person because I believed it was my duty.

Then, there is all the daily work we do for the benefit of the population. Each time I go on the ground, either to inaugurate Quips (Quick Impact Projects), or to participate in other events, it is for me the smile of a child or the thanks of the women. These are the things that will stay long in my memory.

What is your message for the MONUC Blue Helmets?

My message for the Blue Helmets is related to what I said on the code of conduct. I think that to be accepted and deserving of the respect and affection of the population, they must not only do their work, but they must be exemplary soldiers. This is my appeal for them during 2008.


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