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Kazakh peacekeepers in Western Sahara

Photo courtesy of Ministry of Defense Photo courtesy of Ministry of Defense

Last year, Kazakhstani parliament supported President Nazarbayev’s initiative to send Kazakhstani officers to support UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti, the Western Sahara, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia.

A former Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stated that the engagement of the Kazakhstani peacekeepers in UN missions would positively affect the image of the country internationally. Moreover, according to the Chairman of the Majilis Committee for International Affairs, Defense and Security Maulen Ashimbayev, participation in UN peacekeeping operations “would promote the Kazakhstani experience in creating models of inter ethnic and inter religious peace”.

In March, 2014, the Ministry of Defense chose 20 Kazakhstani military men to participate in the UN peacekeeping missions as observers. The military personnel, ranking from captain to colonel, had to go through a specialized UN training as well as be fluent in English and be able to drive and use specialized military vehicles.

Later in October, it was reported that Kazakhstani military personnel would not be able to participate in UN missions in Liberia due to spread of Ebola in the country. As for Haiti and Côte d'Ivoire, the Kazakh peacemakers will have to wait for available vacancies.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstani peacekeepers in Western Sahara told Tengrinews about their daily routines. Captain Bakhtiyar Akbalayev and captain Temirlan Mussapirov are employed in the Western Sahara UN peacekeeping mission as observers.

The day of the peacekeepers starts at 6:00 a.m. with an exercise. The temperature usually does not go below 35 degrees Centigrade. After concluding all morning procedures and vehicle checks, UN peacekeepers set off to patrol the area of responsibility.

At 7:30 am the whole base lines up under the UN flag. After that a commander gathers his team members for debriefing. Patrols consist of two cars and four people. The commander instructs the peacekeepers on the route and explains how to deal with civilians and militant groups.

Patrol routes range from 2 hours up to 5 days depending on the remoteness of the areas  and goals of the UN peacekeeping patrol.

When patrol teams come back to the UN base, the commander gathers the members for progress review and to write a report. Opinions and observations of all team members are considered when writing the report.

The team members, then, check the patrol vehicles and prepare them for the next day. The state of the vehicles is very important as, in many cases, the outcome of a mission depends on these vehicles.

The Almaty native Bakhtiya Akbalayev, 32, graduated from the Department of Airborne and Combat Intelligence Forces at the Armed Forces Institute in 2005. Akbalayev started his military career as a commander of the intelligence support platoon. He later was promoted to the chief of intelligence at Kazbrig peacekeeping brigade. As an office at the air mobile forces, Akbalayev has been participating in the Steppe Eagle peacekeeping exercise since 2006.

Temirlan Mussapirov, 30, was born in Taldybulak village of Almaty Oblast. He graduated from the Department of Command and Tactical Artillery Troops at the Armed Forces Institute in 2006. Mussapirov serves as Deputy Chief of Kazbat-2 control headquarters.

The work at the UN peacekeeping mission includes patrolling, checking subdivisions and buffer strip, monitoring of the are of responsibility and construction of defense installations.

During their work in the UN mission, the military personnel has UN immunity and privileges. In accordance with the UN regulations, the main goal of the military observers is to patrol, monitor and report on the situation. “It must be kept in mind that observers do not participate in conflicts or take sides. They even set off to missions without weapons,” the Ministry of Defense said.

Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev. Writing by Gyuzel Kamalova


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