The significant role played by the Bangladesh Air Force in supporting air operations for MINUSMA, the UN peace mission in Mali, has been a testament to the nation's commitment to peace and stability on a global scale. Their engagement in this endeavor has spanned a decade, underscoring a deep-seated dedication to a more stable and peaceful world.
Beginning in December 2014, the Bangladesh Air Force's Airfield Services and Management Unit was deployed to the Northern region of Kidal. It stood out as the sole contingent offering airfield services in the area. Expanding their sphere of operations, a detachment was further dispatched to the northernmost Tessalit town in July 2016. Without exception, each rotation contingent showcased the highest levels of professionalism and commitment throughout their deployment.
Honoring the Brave
In a ceremony held on 14 September at their headquarters in Kidal town, 75 members of the final rotation of these peacekeepers were bestowed with the United Nations medal. This honour came before their scheduled return to Bangladesh and was a part of the withdrawal of MINUSMA from Mali, as per Resolution 2690 of the UN Security Council. This prestigious medal is not just an emblem of honour, but a recognition of the unwavering dedication, loyalty, and service rendered towards fostering peace and stability.
Brigadier General Mamadou GAYE, MINUSMA Force Commander a.i., and the guest of honour at the award ceremony, highlighted the significance of Bangladesh's participation. He lauded the "wise and generous decision of the authorities of Bangladesh to contribute to international solidarity." The contribution encompassed a diverse range of units, from Signal Units and Infantry Quick Reaction Force to Engineers, including the aforementioned Airfield Services. General GAYE spoke highly of their operational readiness, responsiveness, and achievements, all the more commendable given the challenging environment in which they operated.
A Legacy of Peacekeeping
Bangladesh’s participation in peacekeeping missions is emblematic of its commitment to global peace. General GAYE accentuated the crucial role of the Bangladeshi Contingents, which have been pivotal to MINUSMA's mission, serving as a linchpin in the security architecture due to their unparalleled operational flexibility and professionalism.
Another particularity of the Aviation contingent is the women peacekeepers actively contributing to the UN Mission. “Notably, in MINUSMA, our contingent boasts the highest number of female peacekeepers, with seven women serving in different roles. This is a significant contribution on our part. Additionally, we have female aviators serving as helicopter pilots” said Group Captain Irfanur RAHMAN, Commander of the Bangladesh Airfield Services and Management Unit.
However, this commitment has not been without its sacrifices. A tribute was paid to the 14 fallen Bangladeshi Peacekeepers. MINUSMA's operations in Mali have been perilous, with a reputation of being one of the most dangerous UN missions for peacekeepers. Since its commencement in 2013, the mission has witnessed the loss of 310 peacekeepers, with 174 of them falling in hostile actions.
Bangladesh's decade-long association with MINUSMA stands as a beacon of the nation's unwavering commitment to peace and stability. Through their actions and sacrifices, the Bangladesh Air Force has not only upheld the honor and dignity of their nation but has also championed the noble cause of peace on the global stage.