Private Chancy Chitete Walked in Captain Diagne’s Footsteps, Shared His Humanity, Secretary-General Says at Medal Ceremony Honouring Fallen Peacekeeper
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Captain Diagne Medal ceremony, in New York today:
The world does not have many true heroes. But, the late Private Chancy Chitete of Malawi was indeed one of them and we unfortunately lost him last year. Private Chitete was serving with MONUSCO — the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Last November, Tanzanian and Malawian peacekeepers came under heavy fire while conducting an operation to stop attacks on local towns by an armed group, the ADF [Allied Democratic Forces], that was disrupting the Ebola response. During the operation, Private Chitete and his unit held their ground and provided covering fire, allowing those in harm’s way to move to a secure location.
Before it was Private Chitete’s turn to fall back, he saw a badly wounded Tanzanian peacekeeper, Corporal Ali Khamis Omary, who lay stranded as the militia approached. Private Chitete knew he had to act or his comrade was sure to die. He dragged Corporal Omary back to an area of greater safety as bullets were flying. As he was protecting his wounded comrade and administering life-saving first aid, Private Chitete himself was hit by enemy fire.
Both were evacuated for medical treatment. Corporal Omary survived. Private Chitete did not. Private Chitete’s selfless heroism and sacrifice helped the peacekeepers achieve their objective and dislodge the militia from its stronghold and that was vital for the Ebola response to go on. He saved his comrades and helped the United Nations protect the vulnerable.
He personally made a difference. A profound one. While in hospital, Corporal Omary told the story of the man who saved his life. “I owe Private Chitete a lot for risking his life to save me,” he said in his eulogy to honour him. He wanted his comrade’s heroism to be recognized and his legacy to live on.
Today, I am proud to posthumously honour Private Chancy Chitete with the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage. And I would like to express my gratitude to his wife, who is among us today, as well as their infant daughter and family members. The medal bears the name of a heroic Senegalese peacekeeper who lost his life in Rwanda in 1994 after saving countless lives. The Security Council created the medal in 2014 to help ensure that Captain Diagne and those who follow in his footsteps will always be remembered by the United Nations and the people of the world.
This is the first time the award has been conferred since its initial honorary presentation to the family of Captain Diagne in 2016. 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, [United Republic of] Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who were proud to serve by your side; and by the United Nations family.
Before I present the award, I would also like to recognize the heroism and dedication of eight other peacekeepers, serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Mali, who were nominated by the missions in which they serve. The fact that we have received so many nominations for the awarding of the medal shows the extraordinary courage and commitment of our peacekeepers.
I will now present the Captain Diagne medal to Private Chitete’s widow, in honour of his exceptional courage in the service of peace.