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Chinese peacekeepers bolster security in Africa

Updated: 2016-06-02 23:01

NAIROB -- A terrorist attack on a UN camp in Gao, northern Mali on Tuesday killed a Chinese peacekeeper and injured four others.

China has strongly condemned the attack claimed by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and pledged to continue to support UN peacekeeping operations across the world.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is the world body's deadliest active mission. More than 60 of its personnel have died on active service since it was set up in 2013 following a rebellion in the country by ethnic Tuareg fighters alongside armed groups.

China started contributing its peacekeepers to MINUSMA in 2013. Currently, nearly 400 Chinese peacekeepers are based in Gao, carrying out security, engineering and medical work.

MINUSMA has spoken highly of the role Chinese peacekeepers have played in helping maintain peace and stability in the region, where jihadists stage sporadic attacks on UN personnel.

Koen Davidse, deputy special representative of the UN Secretary-General in MINUSMA, told Xinhua late last year that Chinese peacekeepers had done a "perfect job" and built good relations with locals.

"I am impressed by the unique relations between Chinese troops and the population of Gao. They support many schools in Gao by providing medical support, something that is recognized and appreciated by the population," Davidse said.

China has in the past decade been in the front line of supporting UN peacekeeping efforts in Africa, with a total of more than 2,400 Chinese blue helmets currently on duties in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Liberia, Sudan, South Sudan and Mali.

In DR Congo, where rebel groups have been active in its eastern part since late 1990s, Chinese peacekeepers have been on UN peacekeeping duties since 2003.

The Chinese military engineers in DR Congo have been involved in road renovation, bridge construction, landmine detection, transportation and airport maintenance, while the medical personnel have been providing treatment for their UN comrades and local people.

In South Sudan, which has just begun to heal from more than two years of civil war, China sent its first ever peacekeeping infantry battalion to the war-torn country in April 2015.

The 700-strong battalion deployed to the capital Juba is tasked with protection for civilians and UN personnel and facilities, as well as humanitarian work.

The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, Ellen Loej, told Xinhua late last year: "When we have disturbances or unrest in protection of the civilians site, they (Chinese peacekeepers) have shown very quick reaction that I appreciate very much."

Also in South Sudan, a Chinese engineering company and a medical team, numbering around 300, are serving with the UN mission in the northwestern city of Wau.

In Liberia, where a 1980 coup led to some two decades of political instability, Chinese peacekeepers joined the UN peacekeeping mission there in 2003, and more than 500 Chinese blue helmets are now on duty.

In Sudan's restive Darfur region, a Chinese peacekeeping team is currently part of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur, with their role including construction of makeshift airports, bridges and roads, and civilian protection.

China is the biggest contributor among the five UN Security Council permanent members in terms of the number of blue helmets. It will become the second-largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget 2016-2018, next to the United States.

Globally, since 1990, more than 30,000 Chinese peacekeepers have served with over 20 UN peacekeeping missions. More than ten Chinese peacekeepers have lost their lives on active mission.

In September last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at a UN summit that China will contribute 8,000 troops to a UN peacekeeping standby force.

Xi also pledged that China will provide military aid worth 100 million U.S. dollars to the African Union to support the establishment of the African Standby Force, Africa's peacekeeping troops.

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