60 years after his death, Dag Hammarskjöld continues to inspire peace
The United Nations in Zambia partnered with the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka to organise commemorative events to mark 60 years since the death of Dag Hammarskjöld who at the time was serving as the Second Secretary-General of the United Nations. Hammarskjöld was killed in 1961 in a plane crash in Ndola while on a UN mission to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
On 18 September 2021, a moving ceremony was held at the site where the plane carrying Hammarskjöld and his staff fell. Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Organisation Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) Bintou Keita was among dignitaries that attended the event in Ndola. Ms Keita said that Dag Hammarskjöld was a reference and an inspiration as the leading diplomat of his generation.
“By promoting dialogue, tolerance, and mutual understanding, by pushing creative solutions to the most complex issues of his time, he still embodies today the values and the ideals that guide the United Nations’ work. He also led the way in shaping our institution into an active force in making and keeping peace,” said Ms Keita.
In introducing the SRSG, UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Dr Coumba Mar Gadio said the UN in Zambia was committed to remembering the legacy of Dag Hammarskjöld because keeping his memory alive offers many lessons about peace. While describing Dag Hammarskjöld as one of the world’s finest diplomats, Dr. Gadio called for concerted efforts by everyone in promoting peace.
“We may not have to pay with the ultimate price like it was with the man we are remembering today, but there is something we can all do, including promoting peace,” added Dr Gadio.
In his remarks Copperbelt Minister Elisha Matambo, MP, who was the Guest of Honour said that the Government will continue to value the ideas of Dag Hammarskjöld, who demonstrated courage and believed in dialogue and cooperation. Mr. Matambo also highlighted the Government’s commitment to inclusion of youth in development processes.
“The New Dawn Government recognises the youth as partners in leadership, business and decision-making and is committed to ensure that our country continues on a path that promotes the ideals of peace among our youth”, said Mr. Matambo.
And Swedish Vice-Minister for International Development Ms Janine Alma Ericson noted that Dag Hammarskjöld is remembered for achievements in bringing peace through preventive diplomacy.
“Dag Hammarskjöld believed that a problem should be solved at an early stage, preventing it from betting bigger and more complicated. He also introduced preventive diplomacy,” said Ms Ericson.
“Dag Hammarskjöld believed in equality between people and nations. He was a true champion of peace with an extraordinary sense of duty.”
In a vote of thanks, a student from Fatima Girls Secondary School, Chileshe Kafwilo, noted that the commemoration was very important in keeping the history of Dag Hammarskjöld alive and enabling all an opportunity for all to learn about peace.
Representatives of the Swedish veterans who at the time of Dag Hammarskjöld’s demise were serving as peacekeepers in the DRC also spoke at the event, including Bengt Wicksén, First Vice Chair of the Association of Swedish UN Veterans in the DRC and Captain Mats Fogelmark, Head of the Swedish Armed Forces Department of Veteran Affairs.
Other activities organised that the UN in Zambia and Embassy of Sweden organised in partnership with the Ministry of Education were school debates on peace and a poetry writing contest, both involving secondary schools in Ndola. Further, guests at the commemoration were treated to a rich photo exhibition about Dag Hammarskjöld and week earlier, a virtual discussion was organised on the role of youth in peace building. Programmes on Radio Icengelo and ZNBC Radio 2 also helped to spread awareness about Hammarskjöld with the Swedish Ambassador to Zambia and Resident Coordinator making appearances.
It is still clear that six decades since his passing, Dag Hammarskjöld continues to hold a special place in history as a peace maker with his legacy inspiring many, young and old alike, to work for peace.