The United Nations Secretary General has bestowed the organisation’s highest military peacekeeping honour on a fallen Malawian peacekeeper Private Chancy Chitete.

The Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage, awarded for the first time since its inception in 2016, was presented to Private Chitete’s distraught widow as a solemn ceremony at UN headquarters in New York.

The UN on Friday  observes the International Day of Peacekeepers with the presentation of the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to the 119 military, police and civilian peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2018 and early 2019.

A wreath was laid at the Peacekeepers Memorial Site as the UN’s top military brass and officials stood in silence in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price in the cause of peace and protection.

Later, the UN Chief would present the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage to the widow of Private Chitete.

Chitete saved the life of a fellow Tanzanian peacekeeper last November while both were serving in the Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo while they came under attack from the armed group the ADF in eastern Congo.

“Private Chitete knew he had to act, or his comrade was sure to die. He dragged Corporal Mary back to an area of greater safety as bullets were flying. As he was protecting his wounded comrade and administering lifesaving first aid, Private Chitete was hit by enemy fire. Both were evacuated for medical treatment. Corporal Omary survived. Private Chitete did not,” says Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The medal bears the name of a heroic Senegalese peacekeeper who lost his life in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide after saving countless lives.

“We could not have found a more deserving recipient. We found in Private Chitete a man who not only walked in Captain Diagne’s footsteps but also shared in his heart the same humanity. Private Chitete, you will always be remembered — by those of us gathered today; by your brothers-and-sisters-in-arms in Malawi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who were proud to serve by your side; and by the United Nations family.”

Private Chitete’s brother Jackson (Chitete) says the family was distraught and concerned about their financial future.  “As a family we felt very painful because he, when we heard about the death of lovely brother Chancy Chitete we were concerned and confused, because everything we were depending on him. As now we are just, we have a lot of problems about the death of our Chancy Chitete because he provided for some of our sisters and brothers, part of school fees – now those brothers and sisters are just staying, as a family we are concerned too much.”

Jackson says Chitete’s death is a huge loss to the family.

Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said they were implementing measures to improve safety for blue helmets in the field.

“Given the risk and threats that our peacekeepers face in the field, we are making every effort to enhance their safety and security. We are implanting the action to improve the security of UN peacekeepers through better training, better equipment, improved medical support and other measures. We are collectively making a difference for our peacekeepers and in turn, for the populations they serve.”

Among the 119 fallen – from 38 countries and 12 different UN peace operations – was South African Police Sergeant Nokhaya Nastasic Nkwanyane who served in the UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur from which the country withdraw its infantry battalion in 2016.