The Portuguese soldiers went on their first mission under the command of MINUSCA in Bambari at the end of January, to combat armed groups in the region which Commander Balla Keita said had suffered “heavy casualties” at the hands of the Portuguese.
Over the weekend Portuguese forces were involved in direct combat with armed rebels for the first time since being in the African country.
In praise of the Portuguese force, as disclosed by the Defence Ministry, the MINUSA Commander asked for the international force to keep up their efforts since the situation in the region still required “further dedication” from the multinational force.
The first Portuguese contingent sent to CAR as part of a peace force that the UN has had there since January this year, and is composed of close to 160 soldiers, including 111 commandos and 11 local army officers.
The UN has sent some 12,000 personnel to CAR to try and restore stability after the conflicts in 2013 following the overthrow of the president at the time, François Bozizé, by Seleka rebels.
Portuguese Minister of National Defence, José Alberto Azeredo Lopes, also congratulated the national commandos for their service to the UN, on what he described as a “multi-dimensional, integrated stabilising mission”, and for the distinction received from Commander Balla Keita.
“Recognition of [the Portuguese commandos’] operational readiness and excellent performance, as emphasised by the Force Commander in his letter of praise, is a source of great satisfaction and pride not only for the 160 ‘Blue Helmets’ that make up the Portuguese contingent, but also for The Armed Forces, the Government, and all Portuguese”, the minister said in a statement.