Dutch defense chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert has resigned after a report found that her ministry had allowed standards to slip. The report was prompted by the deaths of two peacekeepers at a Dutch base in Mali.
A Dutch safety board report into the deaths of two UN peacekeeping troops in Mali last year claimed two political victims on Tuesday.
Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and military chief Tom Middendorp both resigned after the report condemned the country's Defense Ministry of "serious shortcomings" in its care for peacekeeping troops stationed in the African country.
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"I have put my heart and soul into serving in the Defense Ministry," Hennis-Plasschaert told lawmakers Tuesday. "But it stops here, today."
She served as defense minister for five years and had been instated as caretaker minister following the Netherlands' national election in March.
DR Congo: UN's largest mission
Since 1999, the UN has been trying to pacify the eastern region of the DR Congo. The mission known as MONUSCO has nearly 20,000 soldiers and an annual budget of $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros). Despite being the largest and most expensive mission of the United Nations, violence in the country continues.
Darfur: Powerless against violence
UNAMID is a joint mission of the African Union and the UN in Sudan's volatile Darfur region. Observers consider the mission a failure. "The UN Security Council should work harder at finding political solutions, rather than spending money for the military's long-term deployment," says security expert Thierry Vircoulon.
S.Sudan: Turning a blind eye to fighting?
Since the beginning of South Sudan's civil war in 2013, nearly 4 million people have been displaced according to the UN. Some of them are being sheltered in UN compounds. But when clashes between government forces and rebels broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016, the blue helmets failed to effectively intervene. Later, the Kenyan UNMISS commander was sacked by former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Mali: The most dangerous UN mission in the world
UN peacekeepers in Mali are monitoring compliance with the peace agreement between the government and an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels. But Islamist terrorist groups such as AQIM continue to carry out attacks making MINUSMA one of the UN's most dangerous military intervention in the world. Germany has deployed more than 700 soldiers as well as helicopters.
CAR: Sexual abuse scandals making headlines
MINUSCA, the UN's mission in Central Africa Republic has not helped to improve the image of the United Nations in Africa. French troops have been accused of sexually abusing children by the Code Blue Campaign. Three years on, victims haven't got any help from the UN. Since 2014, 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers have been deployed. Violence in the country has receded but tensions remain.
Western Sahara: Hope for lasting peace
The UN mission in the Westsahara known as MINURSO has been active since 1991. MINURSO is there to monitor the armistice between Morocco and the rebels of the "Frente Polisario" who are fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. In 2016, Morocco which has occupied this territory since 1976, dismissed 84 MINURSO staff after being angered by a statement from the UN Secretary-General.
Ivory Coast: Peaceful end of a mission
The UN mission in Ivory Coast fulfilled its objectives on June 30, 2016 after 14 years. Since 2016, the troops have been gradually withdrawn. Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this was a "turning point for the United Nations and the Ivory Coast." But only after the full withdrawal will it be clearly known whether or not the mission was successful on a long-term basis.
Liberia: Mission accomplished
The UN deployment in Liberia is - as in neighboring Ivory Coast - will soon be history. The soldiers are leaving by mid-2017. Since the end of the 14-year civil war, UNMIL has ensured stability in Liberia and helped build a functioning state. Liberia's government now wants to provide security for itself. The country is still struggling with the consequences of a devastating Ebola epidemic.
Sudan: Ethiopians as peace promoters?
The UNISFA soldiers are patrolling the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei. Sudan and South Sudan both claim to be rightful owners of this territory located between the two countries. More than 4,000 blue helmets from Ethiopia are deployed. Ethiopia is the world's second largest peace-keeping contributor. At the same time, the Ethiopian army is accused of human rights violations back home.
Somalia: Future model AU mission?
UN peacekeepers in Somalia are fighting under the leadership of the African Union in a mission known as AMISOM. The soldiers are in the Horn of African country to battle the al-Shabaab Islamists and bring stability to the war-torn nation. Ethiopia, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria have all contributed their troops for AMISOM.
She had been likely to play a key role in Prime Minister Mark Rutte's new government, which was expected to be announced in the coming days.
The outgoing defense minister also announced that Middendorp was resigning. The former defense chief general had been due to leave this week anyway, but a ceremony to mark his departure would no longer take place, it was reported.
The Dutch Defense Ministry was found to have had rushed to buy mortar shells back in 2006 "with the help of the US Department of Defense amid a pressure of time." The Dutch military confirmed the purchase without carrying out the necessary checks, believing instead that American forces had already tested the weapons' safety.
However, the safety report said the sales contract had clearly stated that this was not the case and US authorities had given no guarantee regarding the munitions quality and security.
The shells were later found to have "weak points" that allowed moisture to seep through. When combined with Mali's hot temperatures, that moisture made the detonators "unstable and shock-sensitive," the report found.
The incident that sparked calls for an independent inquiry saw two UN peacekeeping troops die after a shell exploded unexpectedly during a training exercise at a Dutch military base in Kidal, Mali. Another soldier was seriously injured by shrapnel.
The report concluded that under Hennis-Plasschaert's watch, the ministry had continued to let safety and medical standards slip, after the injured soldier was taken to a Togolese hospital "which did not meet Dutch military guidelines."
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The Netherlands has been part of the UN's mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, since April 2014, deploying about 400 troops, as well as helicopters.
Around 80 UN peacekeepers have been killed during, MINUSMA making it the most deadly UN mission since Somalia in 1993 to 1995.
dm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)