A total of 139 people of the Bangladesh Armed Forces have sacrificed their lives and 242 people have been injured in maintaining world peace. Their self-sacrifice has brought Bangladesh acceptance as the leading peacekeeping country in the world.
The United Nations has withdrawn its peacekeeping mission from the West African country of Mali. The work of wrapping up the mission has already started. Mali's junta government has allied itself with Russia and has for some time been calling for the withdrawal of international forces fighting various groups.
According to the UN, the Mali peacekeeping mission must be withdrawn between June 30 and December 31. Bangladeshi peacekeepers will return to the country due to the closure of the peacekeeping mission in Mali, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said at a news conference on July 3.
According to UN data, 15,209 soldiers and police from 15 countries, including 1396 soldiers and 283 policemen from Bangladesh, are deployed in the peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Mali is a landlocked country, the eighth largest in Africa, bordering the forbidding Sahara Desert, where peacekeepers are constantly facing a challenge due to the extremely hot weather, dust storms and other adversities. A peacekeeping mission had been conducted in Mali since 2014.
Always ready for peacekeeping roles
Bangladesh was playing a strong role in the peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Mali. They were also involved in many humanitarian and social activities. One of their most popular activities was the SIMIC (civil-military cooperation) programme where Bangladeshi peacekeepers worked for health, hygiene and education due to which they built up a good relationship with the local people.
When asked whether the Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Mali will be assigned elsewhere. Momen said that they will return in the current context. However, if peacekeepers need to be deployed elsewhere, Bangladesh will get priority. In response to the question of whether Bangladesh has been approached for appointment in other missions of the United Nations, the foreign minister said, "We always request the United Nations to appoint Bangladeshis if there is any mission."
However, the UN is withdrawing at a time when false propaganda is being spread about the withdrawal of the peacekeepers. The troubled African nation's relationship with Western powers has been destabilizing. The UN Security Council unanimously decided to withdraw peacekeeping forces from Mali after Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop called for the withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission.
On 25-26 June 2023, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the current Under-Secretary-General (USG) of the United Nations (UN) for Peace Operations, visited Bangladesh and praised the role of its peacekeepers. The UN is likely to remain dependent on the few traditional providers of peacekeepers such as Bangladesh for conducting future peace operations. Since Bangladesh has not demonstrated any inclination to curtail its participation in UN peacekeeping so far, the country remains a reliable source for the recruitment of UN peacekeepers.
Three-decade long involvement
Bangladesh's three-decades-long participation in UN peacekeeping has been a source of national pride and prestige for the Bangladeshi people. Through their courage, dedication and determination in fulfilling their international duties, Bangladeshi peacekeepers have earned the respect of the international community and acted as 'live' instruments of soft power for Bangladesh.
In 1988, Bangladesh's glorious journey in the UN peacekeeping mission began with the sending of military observers to the UN Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIMG) mission. Since then, Bangladesh has been keeping its signature for establishing peace in various parts of the world. Bangladesh has been participating in the United Nations peacekeeping mission for the past 35 years. Their positive actions have enhanced the standing of Bangladesh on foreign soil and allowed its peacekeepers to occupy respectable positions in peacekeeping operations.
Bangladesh ranks first among 118 countries in sending troops to UN peacekeeping missions. A total of181,661 Bangladeshi peacekeepers have successfully performed their duties in 56 UN peacekeeping missions which is a rare achievement for any country. A total of 139 people of the Bangladesh Armed Forces have sacrificed their lives and 242 people have been injured in maintaining world peace. Their self-sacrifice has brought Bangladesh acceptance as the leading peacekeeping country in the world.
If some member states withdraw their peacekeepers due to increasing risks and threats to peacekeeping, the deployment of peacekeepers from Bangladesh will be the first to be discussed and there is no room for negativity on this score.
(The author is a researcher-writer and teacher in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. Views are personal. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)