A contingent of 205 Peruvian service members -- 145 from the Army, 41 Navy, and 19 Air Force -- departed in early January for Africa to participate in the United Nations (UN) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
The Troops, who are part of the Peru Company of Engineers that will focus on building and maintaining airfields, left for their mission following an emotional ceremony at the Army Headquarters' Bolognesi Plaza that was attended by senior Military officials and family members.
"Among the actions that the Peruvian Military will conduct in Africa are land clearing, including compacting and leveling (land) for the construction of an aerodrome; rehabilitation, construction, and maintenance of unpaved runways; and repair, construction and maintenance of heliports and transporting construction materials,” said Peruvian Army Colonel Juan Chapoñán Vinces, head of the Office of International Affairs of the Joint Command of Peru's Armed Forces, in an interview with Diálogo.
The unit, which is led by Army Colonel Antonio Córdova Espinoza, is outfitted with 93 pieces of mechanical equipment and engineering vehicles. It established its base of operations in the city of Bouar, where it has built facilities to provide lodging and food services.
“Military personnel have been prepared on the technical side of each specialty,” Col. Chapoñán Vinces stated. “Especially those in the field of engineering have been trained as surveyors, soil analysts, operators of engineering heavy machinery, and engineering service vehicle operators.”
Peru agreed to contribute to MINUSCA for at least 10 years, according to the Joint Peacekeeping Operations Training Center (CECOPAZ), which since its inception in 2003 has trained service members and civilians for peacekeeping missions. Peru's initial contingent of peacekeepers will remain in the Central African Republic for 12 months, at which point they will be relieved by a second group, the Armed Forces Joint Command stated.
MINUSCA's selection process consists of two phases. First, the Armed Forces Joint Command-Peacekeeping Operations Department posts a request for applications. Next, the Military branches evaluate and select the candidates who undergo specialized training. “For Soldiers to participate in a peacekeeping mission, they must first attend a six-week course called 'Pre-Deployment in the CECOPAZ', which is a requirement to serve as member of a Military contingent in the United Nations,” Col. Chapoñán Vinces explained.
The UN created the MINUSCA in April 2014. The armed conflict between the Séléka faction – an alliance of five Muslim rebel groups – and government forces began in December 2012. The conflict has reportedly displaced about 200,000 persons. In addition to Peru, the Armed Forces from other Latin American countries , such as Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, and Guatemala, are participating in MINUSCA.
History of overseas missions
In addition to the 205 Troops engaging in MINUSCA, Peru has 160 service members supporting the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The country also has Armed Forces members serving as Military observers or staff members with UN peacekeeping missions in the Congo (MONUSCO), Western Sahara (MINURSO), Ivory Coast (UNOCI), Abyei (UNIFSA), South Sudan (UNMISS), and Darfur (UNAMID).
In Peru's history, about 4,000 Armed Forces service members have participated in 18 peacekeeping missions.