Peru’s participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions is decades old—the nation is a founding member of the UN. In fact, in 1988, under the leadership of former UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who was Peruvian, UN Peacekeeping Forces received the Nobel Peace Prize. Peru’s participation in UN missions goes back to 1958, when the nation sent troops to Lebanon. Since then, members of the Peruvian Army, Navy, and Air Force have participated in peacekeeping missions in countries like Israel, Namibia, Ivory Coast, Cyprus, and Haiti.
Diálogo spoke with Brigadier General Fernando Hernán Fitzcarrald Guerrero, head of the International Affairs Office of the Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Command, about Peruvian military participation in peacekeeping missions around the world and the role of the Peru Engineer Company in the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), among other issues.
Diálogo: How did Peru’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions start and consolidate?
Brigadier General Fernando Hernán Fitzcarrald Guerrero, head of the International Affairs Office of the Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Command: Our nation has always been sensitive to the efforts of the United Nations to help achieve and reinforce the noble goals of peace and peaceful coexistence—a fundamentalcondition for economic and social development for people around the world. The Peruvian Armed Forces’ current participation in UN peacekeeping missions falls under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the United Nations and the Peruvian government on November 11th, 2003.
Diálogo: What is the purpose of Peru’s participation in peacekeeping missions?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: We seek to have a greater participation of the Peruvian Armed Forces in UN peace operations and fulfill the international commitments of our government related to world peace and respect for human rights. Another objective is to implement mechanisms to promote and increase female service members’ participation in peacekeeping missions as general staff officers and military observers. Another important aspect is to promote Peru’s image internationally, allowing us to share our culture, cuisine, and folklore, among other things, with the military and civilian personnel from other countries in peacekeeping missions.
Diálogo: How many Peruvian service members are participating in peacekeeping missions?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: In November 2004, the first Peruvian contingent traveled to Haiti. It included 205 personnel from the three military branches and was initially set up in the city of Jacmel. During the Peru Company’s participation, more than 20 contingents have been sent to Haiti—a total of 6,125 male and 114 female service members. We have an engineering company with 205 personnel deployed in MINUSCA, and we also have officers in military observer positions and members of the General Staff in missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Darfur, and Abyei. We are also completing the process for a 250-person infantry company to deploy in peacekeeping missions. That company is already registered among the national commitments made with the United Nations.
Diálogo: What has been Peru’s contribution to peacekeeping missions?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: Peru’s contribution to peacekeeping missions has been with personnel and material used not only to guarantee people’s protection, but also to aid with the transition process, to facilitate humanitarian assistance, to promote and defend human rights, and to support demobilization and reintegration. Our Armed Forces have done an outstanding job completing the various peacekeeping missions that we participate in.
Diálogo: The Peru Engineer Company is a contingent that was recently deployed to MINUSCA. Could you talk about that?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: Following their arrival on January 7th, 2016, the 205 military members who make up the Peru Engineer Company deployed and installed their equipment as part of MINUSCA. The Peru Engineer Company comprises 145 members from the Army, 41 from the Navy, and 19 from the Air Force. They perform construction and maintenance duties for airports, highways, and bridges in the country as part of the work assigned by the UN, and they are relieved annually for a 10-year period under agreements with the United Nations. It’s worth noting that on January 6th, 2016, the Peru Engineer Company deployed to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, where they completed their induction process and administrative procedures. Later, they moved to the city of Bouar, where they focused on the work assigned by the United Nations. Our nation’s participation in MINUSCA was completed within the framework of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Peruvian government and the United Nations, through which our country demonstrated its commitment to contribute to the international organization’s peacekeeping missions.
Diálogo: Can you provide details about the duties of the Peruvian contingent in support of the Central African Republic?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: The engineer company performs maintenance and construction duties on unpaved runways as well as heliport repair, in addition to other roadwork, highway, and bridge maintenance work the UN assigns to contribute to peace and development in the Central African Republic. Among the complementary duties that Peruvian service members perform in Africa are land clearing—including [soil] compaction and leveling needed to build an aerodrome—restoring, building, and maintaining unpaved runways; repairing, building, and maintaining heliports; and transporting construction materials.
Diálogo: What progress has the 2016 contingent made on the aerodromes in the Central African Republic?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: Initially, the mission of the Peru Engineer Company deployed in the Central African Republic was to build and maintain 35 airfields. However, over the course of the deployment, they were assigned other duties. This year, we’ve been responsible for building two aerodromes, and building and maintaining 490 kilometers of highway in different areas that the mission is responsible for. From an engineering standpoint, the work requires a large amount of human resources and materials in a harsh geographical environment with high temperatures and the presence of armed groups, among other issues.
Diálogo: Can you give us some examples of some of the main challenges that the Peruvian contingent faced in the construction of aerodromes and highways and how were they overcome?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: The main challenges for the Peru Engineer Company are the instability—the lack of public safety in the mission area due to the presence of hostile armed groups—the rugged geography, and the various endemic diseases, particularly malaria, which affected our personnel. We’ve kept the risks to a minimum with the use of, adequate prophylaxis and preventive treatments.
Diálogo: What are the results of the Security Council’s assessment of MINUSCA and other missions?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: During its two-year mission in the Central African Republic, the Peruvian contingent has effectively and efficiently carried out its duties. As such, in coordination with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), there are plans to deploy more military personnel in the MINUSCA mission to increase the good work of our unit.
Diálogo: How does the Peruvian Armed Forces’ experience contribute to the fight against terrorism and cooperation with partner nations’ forces in peacekeeping missions?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: The combat experience of our Armed Forces in their ongoing fight against terrorism has provided us the professional experience to do a good job in the peace missions, where the presence of our nation has been requested, creating a precedent in the United Nations, which is why DPKO plans to deploy a force similar to the one that existed in Haiti up to 2015.
Diálogo: Would you like to add anything else for Diálogo’s readers?
Brig. Gen. Fitzcarrald: The Joint Command, in coordination with the Peruvian Navy, initiated the process to make the participation of these units feasible:
•A mechanized Marine Corps company.
•A logistics resupply ship with a helicopter onboard.
•A guided missile frigate with a helicopter onboard.
This process takes time due to budgetary, logistic, organizational, and equipment planning, and to adapt to UN and other regulations. That’s why the participation of these units won’t be official until 2018.