CNN Mission: Peace

New Zealand pulls troops out of Bosnia

Kiwi Company performs Ahaka to say goodbye

December 22, 1995
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EST (0245 GMT)

From Correspondent Jim Clancy

NEAR VITEZ, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- New Zealand has decided to withdraw its U.N. peacekeepers from Bosnia rather than place them under NATO command. The men and women who make up Kiwi Company said goodbye with mixed emotions and a unique ceremony steeped in the history and tradition they carry with them wherever they go.

Conch Spear Ahaka Skirt

A conch sounds across the Vlashna Valley in central Bosnia, and echoes ages of Maori custom from half the world away. (60K AIFF sound or 60K WAV sound) Faces painted in black scrolls and intricate patterns, New Zealand's Kiwi Company bade Bosnia a ferocious farewell. (136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound)

The posture dance where soldiers, some stripped to the waist or in native garb, chant with highly animated gestures is called Ahaka, a warrior's way of laying down a challenge to foes and giving honor to fellow warriors and friends. (995K QuickTime movie)

Born of New Zealand's Maori people, Ahaka is treasured as a part of the country's national culture. "Ahaka is a unique way to express something New Zealand, and this is what today is, a unique goodbye, farewell to both our commanding officer and our time here in Bosnia," said Lt. Willy Williams. (111K AIFF sound or 111K WAV sound)

Andrew Martin Line of soldiers Face close-up

The 250 men and women of the Kiwi Company are breaking camp and preparing to go home with mixed emotions. They have built schools there and improved water supplies. They have also drawn warring Croats and Muslims to the conference table.

It will be good to be home in the new year, but painful to miss seeing peace fully implemented.

And packing it all up is a challenging job. "To deploy a group of this size 12,000 miles from the bottom of the world has been a huge undertaking from New Zealand. To pack it all up and take it home is equally a very big undertaking," Officer in Command Maj. Andrew Martin said.

Like everyone else, Martin joined in performing Ahaka. It's a matter of pride, a part of New Zealand's tradition that the company has passed along even to the people who live in central Bosnia. "It's close to a lot of our hearts," said Lance Cpl. Deon MacKenzie. "We like to pass it along to wherever we go, in every country. It means a lot to us and it is quite a good show."

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