Uruguayan Army Prepares for its Final Peacekeeping Mission of 2017
By Carlos Maggi/Diálogo August 16, 2017More than 100 Uruguayan Army service members are preparing to deploy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for their last trip of 2017. The Uruguay Battalion, in service of the United Nations, has its base there as part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO, per its French acronym). The deployment is scheduled for the last week of August, according to Colonel Luis Mangini, the director of the Uruguayan Army’s Peacekeeping Operations Coordination Center. The Uruguayan contingent comprises 892 men and women from the Army, Air Force, and Navy. Their motivation for volunteering is professional advancement, since the experience gained from this type of work, which often occurs under adverse, critical conditions, gives them the chance to gain other important knowledge useful in their career development. It is important to point out that, in addition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Uruguayan Armed Forces have contributed personnel for this type of work in countries like Cambodia, Mozambique, and Haiti. In support of the MONUSCO mandate, the Uruguay Battalion constitutes a reserve force of the [UN] force commander and can deploy at a moment’s notice anywhere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Tshopo, and Katanga. They will serve under the commander, deploying up to two sub-units in Kinshasa and Kisangani. “On this occasion, the Army will replace 100 troops, and will thus be with the full battalion until they are relieved in May 2018,” Col. Mangini told Diálogo. “Everyone has been selected and is ready for the flight; the preparations are not simple, especially their cargo, which is adjusted according to current needs in the mission area.” Each stage of mission preparation is reported to the United Nations headquarters in New York, where all the operations are directed. In this case, munitions, replacement parts for armaments, vehicles, and kitchens will also be transported along with personnel. In addition, shipments of clothing donations for orphanages in the African country will be sent through different social organizations. The plane will depart from the Carrasco International Airport in Uruguay and will stop for fuel in Togo. It will then head to Kigali, Rwanda, where service members will continue on by land, with their cargo, to eventually arrive at their base in the city of Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “This is not an easy task, this work demands a lot of time. We have to coordinate with migration authorities in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo so that they allow the entry of this material, especially the munitions,” Col. Mangini added. Over the course of the past year, he was the battalion commander in that country. “If we do not carry out the appropriate coordination, the material could be held up there.” Six percent of the Uruguayan contingent in the mission area is made up of female personnel, a number that is growing. The goal of the United Nations for all deployed forces is to hit 15 percent. Within the ranks of the Uruguayan Army, women do the same tasks as men, and everyone must adapt to the situation, regardless of any gender differences. Seventeen years of experience The commander of the Uruguay Battalion, Army Colonel Walter Berger, highlighted the Army’s experience in the mission area, which has been a part of MONUSCO for the past 17 years. Col. Berger said that the Uruguayan work has been praised by United Nations authorities, as well as local residents. “We are capable and have experience, and a large percentage of the personnel belonging to the contingent has several peace missions. We are ready, and that is confirmed by the results of the operations. We are the [UN] force’s reserve battalion to be deployed anywhere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in an emergency situation, and since taking the job, we’ve known that the order might come over the radio to get ready to deploy anywhere in the country,” Col. Berger said. The Uruguayan Armed Forces have troops deployed in different bases throughout the African country. The largest number of members is found in Goma, where 630 service members are deployed. In the base of Kisangani, there is a company of 120 service members, and the Air Force has 142 service members and two Bell 212 helicopters in Bukavu.