The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 18 No 3 - December 2018


Compiled by Captain (SAN) Charles Ross (SA Navy Retired)

Every year on 29 May the United Nations (UN) commemorates the 'International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers'. On 29 May 2018, the UN commemorated 70 years of UN Peace Support Operations (PSO). Since 1948 the UN has authorised 71 PSOs in which some 3 326 peacekeepers from 120 countries have lost their lives.

The UN was established in 1945. The Charter of the United Nations, of which General Jan Smuts wrote the original preamble, was signed on 26 June 1945 and came into effect on 24 October 1945. Article One of the Charter of the United Nations states that the organisation is 'To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which may lead to a breach of the peace.'

To achieve the above, the Security Council of the United Nations (UNSC) may deploy a PSO mandated under the following Chapters of the Charter:

Chapter VI (Pacific Settlement of Disputes), classically an inter-positioning force deployed in a temporary security zone. The UN funds this PSO and member states participating are reimbursed in accordance with the United Nations Policy and Procedures for Reimbursement of Contingent Owned Equipment (COE Manual);

Chapter VII (Action with Respect to Threats of the Peace, breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression), in which the UNSC mandates the respective Force Commander to take certain operational actions. It is funded by the UN and member states participating are reimbursed in accordance with the COE Manual; and

Chapter VIII (Regional Arrangements), where the UNSC mandates a regional organisation or a group of countries to conduct a PSO. If it is a group of countries, they are generally referred to as the 'Coalition of the Willing'. These missions are generally not funded by the UN but it may provide logistic support.

Peace Support Operations (PSO)

The first UN PSO was the deployment of the 'UN Truce Supervision Organisation', known as UNTSO, in May 1948. The role of the mission, comprising mainly unarmed Military Observers and mandated under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, was to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbours. The mission is still in operation today.

In 1956 the UN deployed its first armed PSO with the deployment of the 'UN Emergency Force' (UNEF I) to address the Suez Canal issue. The PSO was established by the first emergency special session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) from 1 to 10 y November 1956. The mandate of the Force was to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities, including the withdrawal of the armed forces of France, Israel and the United Kingdom from Egyptian territory and, after the withdrawal, to serve as a buffer between the Egyptian and Israeli forces and to provide impartial supervision of the ceasefire. UNEF was withdrawn in May-June 1967, at Egypt's request.

The first large-scale PSO was in 1960 with the deployment of the 'UN Operation in the Congo' (ONUC). At its peak, ONUC had nearly 20 000 military personnel. The mandate of ONUC was amended by UNSC Resolution 161, dated 21 February 1961, to 'use force' and Resolution 169 dated 24 November 1961 to 'take vigorous action' under Chapter VII.

During the 1960s and 1970s the UNSC established a number of short term PSOs:
In 1988 the Nobel Committee cited: '(UN) the Peacekeeping Forces through their efforts have made important contributions towards the realisation of one of the fundamental tenets of the United Nations. Thus, the world organisation has come to playa more central part in world affairs and has been invested with increasing trust'. The UN peacekeepers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Since 1988 there has been a marked increase in the number of UN PSOs with 57 of the 71 taking place since 1988. The PSOs changed from the 'traditional' deployment of primarily Military Observers to more complex 'multi-dimensional' PSOs, which are designed to ensure the implementation of comprehensive peace agreements and to assist in laying the foundation for sustainable peace. At the same time, the nature of conflicts changed from inter-State conflicts to intra-State conflicts and civil wars.

As at 30 April 2018, there were fourteen UN PSOs in operation, with seven of them on the African Continent. A total of 104 043 personnel from 124 countries are deployed in these missions. This comprises 87 916 Uniformed Personnel (76 026 Contingent Troops, 10 632 Police, 1 984 Staff Officers and 1 258 Experts on Mission), 12 830 Civilian and 1 308 UN Volunteers. The current cost is $ US 6,8 billion. This includes logistic support to the African Union's Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

South African involvement

South Africa's first participation in a UN PSO was in the Korean War (1950-53). The South African Air Force's 2 Squadron was the main element of this participation, which also included a squadron of Centurion tanks from the South African Army, that was seconded to a British Army unit for deployment. It is interesting to note that this PSO is not included in the official UN List of Peacekeeping Operations.

MONUC/MONUSCO was a PSO deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Participation in this PSO, under Operation MISTRAL, started in September 1999 with the deployment of a Capital Liaison Officer to Kampala in Uganda. The mandate of MONUC was amended by UNSC Resolution 1291, dated 24 February 2000, as a Chapter VII PSO. This was followed with the deployment of the South African National Defence Force Specialist Contingent (SANDFSPECC) to various locations in the DRC. This was followed with the deployment of Infantry, Engineers, Military Police, Helicopters and Medical personnel. Since the inception of the PSO, South Africa has had a number of senior appointments. These include the MONUSCO Force Commander, Lt-Gen D Mgwebi, Deputy Eastern Brigade Commander in MONUC, Brig-Gen D Mdutyana, Brig-Gen P Dube as Commander Force Intervention Brigade in MONUSCO, and Commander Sector 5 in MONUC, Col L Smith.

UNMEE is the PSO in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Participation was limited to the deployment of Military Observers and Staff Officers from July 2000 to July 2008 under Operation ESPRESSO. During this deployment, history was made when the first female Military Observer was deployed. The mandate of UNMEE was amended vide UNSC Resolution 1320, dated 15 September 2000, to Chapter VII.

UNMIL is the PSO in Liberia. A small number of staff officers deployed' under Operation MONTEGO from October 2003 to January 2005. UNMIL was established as a Chapter VII PSO vide UNSC Resolution 1509 dated 19 September 2003.

ONUB, the PSO in Burundi, followed on from the South African and African Union missions in Burundi (AMIB) under Operation FIBRE from June 2004 to December 2006. Major-General Mgwebi became the first South African to be appointed as a UN PSO Force Commander. This was the first PSO where all four of the Services were deployed. ONUB was established as a Chapter VII PSO vide UNSC Resolution 1545, dated 21 May 2004. The original deployment by South Africa in 2001 was endorsed by the UNSC by means of UNSC Resolution 1375, dated 29 October 2001.

UNMIS was the PSO in Sudan. A Staff Officer was deployed to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) under Operation CORDITE. UNMIS was established as a Chapter VII PSO vide UNSC Resolution 1590, dated 24 March 2005. The PSO was terminated on July 2007 with the establishment of UNAMID.

UNAMID is the PSO in Darfur, Sudan. This was a follow-on from the Africa Union Mission in Sudan (AM IS), under Operation CORDITE from July 2008 until the withdrawal of the SANDF contingent in April 2016. This was the first mission in which the South African Police Service deployed, with Commissioner M Fryer having been appointed as UNAMID Police Commissioner. Brigadier-General Mdutyana served as Deputy UNAMID Force Commander until November 2010. During this mission, three members of the SA Police Service were abducted and later returned unharmed. UNAMID was established as a Chapter VII PSO vide UNSC Resolution 1769, dated 31 July 2007.

UNMIN was the PSO in Nepal. A small number of Military Observers were deployed under Operations INDULI from April 2007 to July 2009. The Military Observers deployed in civilian dress.

UNSMIS is the PSO in Syria. A small number of Military Observers were identified for redeployment from MONUSCO in DRC to UNSMIS in Syria under Operation VIGILANCE in June 2012. A request for the deployment of additional Military Observers was received. None of the Military Observers deployed to UNSMIS and the PSO only lasted from April 2012 to August 2012.

UNMISS is the PSO in Southern Sudan. There are currently a small number of SA Police Service members deployed. UNMISS was established as a Chapter VII PSO vide UNSC Resolution 1996, dated 8 July 2011.

Ongoing contributions to UN Peace Support Operations: The current situation

As at 30 April 2018, South Africa had 1 231 personnel deployed in three missions. These are as follows: MONUSCO, with a total of 1 184 personnel, including 1 160 military, eighteen Staff Officers and six Experts on Mission; UNAMID, with a total of 35, which includes 21 members of the SA Police Service, ten Experts on Mission and four Staff Officers; and UNMISS, where a total of twelve members of the SA Police Service are deployed.

Acknowledgement for the information on present and past PSOs.

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