Peacekeepers’ ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’ Honored
A Chadian Captain Is Among 85 Africans Who Died Serving in U.N. Missions in 2021
An Army captain from Chad who died while protecting civilians in Mali has become only the second recipient of the United Nations’ highest peacekeeping award.
Capt. Abdelrazakh Hamit Bahar joined the U.N. Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali in January 2021. He was deployed at the Aguelhok Super Camp in the northeast when an armed terrorist group attacked and tried to seize the base and its outposts, according to the U.N.
He led a counterattack. While protecting the perimeter, he noticed that some of the attackers were entering a nearby house. He went to clear and secure the house, where he was shot and killed.
He died in April 2021 at 34. In a May 2022 ceremony in New York, the U.N. honored Abdelrazakh and other peacekeepers who died in the line of duty in 2021.
“Capt. Abdelrazakh’s willingness to risk his own life to save others exemplifies the courage and dedication of the more than 1 million peacekeepers who have served on the front lines of conflict since 1948,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix. “Capt. Abdelrazakh made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of peace. We mourn his loss alongside his family, colleagues and the nation of Chad. His selfless service serves to inspire us all, and we are proud to honor him.”
Three other peacekeepers from Chad also died, and 34 were wounded during the raid. A total of 74 Chadian U.N. peacekeepers have died over the years.
Lacroix added that the captain’s sacrifice highlights the increasing danger faced by U.N. peacekeepers as they carry out their work in some of the world’s most challenging environments. The U.N. mission in Mali is the most dangerous in the world, with more than 270 peacekeepers killed since 2013.
Abdelrazakh is the second winner of the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage,” named in honor of Senegalese Capt. Diagne, who saved hundreds of lives while serving as a U.N. “blue helmet” during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Diagne hid civilians under blankets in his vehicle, then maneuvered his way through checkpoints while taking his passengers to safety.
Diagne was killed when a mortar shell exploded near his vehicle while he was stopped at a government checkpoint. In 2014, the U.N. created the award in his honor and gave the first one to his family.
The U.N. General Assembly established the International Day of U.N. Peacekeepers in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping and to honor the memory of those who died in the cause of peace. The General Assembly designated May 29 as peacekeepers’ day to commemorate the day in 1948 when the U.N.’s first peacekeeping mission, the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, began operations in Palestine. Since then, more than a million people have served in 72 U.N. peacekeeping operations.
In the May ceremonies, the U.N. also awarded a Letter of Commendation to Lt. Col. Chahata Ali Mahamat, who fought alongside Abdelrazakh that day and helped evacuate 16 wounded colleagues.
During the ceremony, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laid a wreath to honor the nearly 4,200 U.N. peacekeepers who have died in the line of duty since 1948. He also presided over a ceremony in which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal was awarded posthumously to 117 military, police and civilian peacekeepers who died serving under the U.N. flag in 2021.