Portuguese blue helmets awarded UN medals for impactful peacekeeping
The spirit of partnership – between Portugal, MINUSCA and the Central African Republic – shone bright as 180 blue helmets from the Portuguese Quick Reaction Force were honoured for their service in the Central African Republic (CAR) at a UN medal award ceremony held in M’poko, Bangui.
The CAR, UN and Portuguese anthems rang in the ceremony, setting the tone for a memorable congratulatory medal parade for the diverse group of men and women who had served the peacekeeping cause in CAR – in the presence of the MINUSCA Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Mankeur Ndiaye, Deputy SRSG Denise Brown, Acting Force Commander Eduardo Mendes Ferrao as well as representatives from the European Union and the Government of the Central African Republic.
It is three years now since the Portuguese Quick Reaction Force (PRTQRF) first came to serve with MINUSCA – a deployment that was carried out in a particularly tense political and security context in the Central African Republic. Subsequent deployments have followed for a country contingent that is valued for its expertise in military operations.
The medal recipients – members of the 6th Portuguese Quick Reaction Force – took up duty in September 2019 and have been tasked with protecting civilians, gathering intelligence, responding to evolving crises, conducting long-range patrols as well as area domination and surveillance operations in various locations. During the six months in theatre, the force has not only stood ready to intervene at short notice if needed, both by air and by ground in different locations, but also been activated several times.
They have taken part in significant operations to contain armed groups – Operation Anvil Hammer Strike in Bocaranga, Operation Anvil Hold the Ground in Bouar and Operation Mo Kiri in Bambari; and in security and escort missions to high-level authorities in Bangui’s 3rd district following the December 2019 clashes in the area; in the Community Violence Reduction (CVR) Programme as well as in several civilian-military activities.
“The medal parade is one of the most vivid forms of expression reserved for the men in uniform who have invested in the implementation of the Mission’s mandate. Today’s ceremony recognizes Portugal’s contribution to the search for peace in the Central African Republic,” said MINUSCA Chief Mankeur Ndiayewhile honouring the peacekeepers.
Contingent commander Lieutenant Colonel Victor Sérgio Antunes Gomes was especially proud of the fact that various armed groups had “entered into negotiations with the Government of the Central African Republic to peacefully resolve their grievances” following the contingent’s operations for stabilization and peace in the country.
Service officers and military observers who had fulfilled their duties were also awarded medals during the ceremony.
Besides peacekeeping with MINUSCA, Portugal has, over the years, been part of various United Nations peacekeeping operations, such as in East Timor, Lebanon, Mali, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Colombia.