Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute today to 11 peacekeepers serving with the United Nations mission in Haiti who were killed when a plane crashed last week, hailing them for helping the Caribbean country’s people “fulfil the enormous promise of their proud nation.”
A plane had been on a routine surveillance flight near the border with the Dominican Republic when it struck a mountain on Friday in the Fonds-Verrettes area of southeast Haiti, killing the six Uruguayans and five Jordanians on board, according to the mission, known as MINUSTAH.
“Those we remember today were patrolling from the skies, but they could see something farther on the horizon: a brighter and more hopeful future for all the people of Haiti,” Mr. Ban said in a message to a memorial service delivered by his Special Representative, Hédi Annabi, in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
“They ventured far from home to serve the shared values that bind us together as a human family,” he added. The peacekeepers came to Haiti to protect the country’s borders and help victims of last year’s devastating storms and hurricanes, the Secretary-General noted. “These 11 brave men put everything into a painting a picture of a rising Haiti, more secure, more hopeful, more strong.”
During the moving memorial ceremony, attended by hundreds of UN staff and Haitian and international dignitaries, Haitian President René Préval bestowed the National Order of Honour and Merit on the 11 peacekeepers. The 11 coffins were each decorated with a wreath of flowers laid by Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Hédi Annabi and the commanding officers of the Jordanian and Uruguayan battalions.
The UN flag flew at half mast both at MINUSTAH and UN Headquarters in New York.
Following remarks by Commander Mohammed Al-Ajarmah of the Jordanian battalion and Colonel Edimer Guevara of the Uruguayan battalion, Mr. Annabi spoke on behalf of MINUSTAH and the UN family in Haiti.
As the final notes of the Last Post faded away, the coffins were carried by their bearers past the Honour Guard and to the vehicles that were waiting to take them to the airport, and then by plane back home to their final resting place.
The Jordanian peacekeepers killed were Col. Adidallah Ibrahim Almawajdeh, Lt. Col. Jehad Semrin Almeirat, Maj. Ibrahim Brahim Mohammed Al-Shorman, Lt. Belal Ahmed abu Hujailah and Warrant Officer Ame Mahmoud Alrawashdeh; those from Uruguay were Capt. Jose Ignacio Larrosa, Lt. Santiago Gabriel Hernandez, Officer Jose Leonel Pastor, Cpl. Enrique Alejandro Montiel, Cpl. Yiyi Anabel Medina and Cpl. Nestor Fernando Morales.
In a related development, the Security Council today extended the mandate of the mission, which has been in place in Haiti since mid-2004 after the then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest, through 15 October next year.
Currently there are more than 9,000 military and police personnel deployed and nearly 2,000 civilian staff.
The unanimously-passed resolution recognized “the ownership and primary responsibility of the Government and the people of Haiti over all aspects of the country’s stabilization,” as well as MINUSTAH’s role in supporting authorities consolidate peace.
It also welcomed efforts undertaken by Special Envoy to Haiti, former United States president Bill Clinton, to spur job creation, improve the delivery of basic services and infrastructure and attract private sector investment.