23 May 2018
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has deployed two senior officers, including a Brigadier, to Africa as it expands its contribution to United Nations peacekeeping missions in the continent.
Brigadier Mike Shapland took up the role of Force Chief of Staff of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) early this month, while Colonel Angela Fitzsimons has assumed the role of Chief Military Intelligence Officer for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the deployments to Mali and South Sudan would be for 12 months and would raise the number of NZDF personnel in Africa from four to six.
“Since 1954, the NZDF has contributed personnel to serve at UN peacekeeping operations worldwide. We play our part in maintaining international peace and security,” Major General Gall said.
“These deployments also continue our Defence Force’s long history of involvement in the African continent, which began during the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century, when more than 6000 members of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and 31 New Zealand nurses served in South Africa.”
Brigadier Shapland, who will help supervise more than 14,000 military personnel from 60 countries who are serving as part of the UN mission in the East African country, said it was an honour to represent New Zealand in his new role.
“I believe my previous roles both in New Zealand and with the UN in East Timor and Bosnia have prepared me well for the tasks ahead,” he said.
“Together with my NZDF colleagues, I will do my best to support UNMISS’s mandate.”
The mandate of UNMISS, established in July 2011, is to protect civilians, monitor and investigate abuses and violations of human rights, create conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and support the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement and peace process.
There are four NZDF officers currently serving in UNMISS – two Military Liaison Observers, a staff officer working as the Deputy Chief of Plans and another officer serving as the Military Assistant to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General.
Major General Gall said Colonel Fitzsimons’ appointment marked the first time that the NZDF was contributing to the UN mission in Mali.
Colonel Fitzsimons, who is leading a team of 65 UN personnel from 31 other countries, said their task was to support UN personnel on operations.
“One way to do that is to have better intelligence,” she said. “My priority is getting all the different nationalities with their different skills to work together as a team.”
Established in April 2013, MINUSMA comprises about 15,000 military personnel. Its mandate is to support the political process, protect civilians and help stabilise Mali by paving the way for free and fair elections.