Lieutenant General Joseph Henry Smith (Rtd), Minister of Defence, has stated that Ghana’s involvement in the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping operations was a demonstration of her commitment to sustain global peace, security and stability.
He said it bordered on our constitutional commitment as a country to uphold the rule of law, promote respect for international law and settlement of disputes by peaceful means.
“Ghana considers her participation in UN Peacekeeping operations as an important international obligation, which is very much in consonance with its constitutional commitment,” he said.
Gen Smith was speaking at a flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony to mark the International Day of the United Nations Peacekeepers, which falls on Sunday May 29, on the theme: “Peacekeeping within the rule of law: the challenges of the Ghanaian Peacekeeper.”
He recalled that peacekeeping operations had evolved since its launch in 1948 from resolving conflicts between states through unarmed or lightly armed military personnel under UN command to areas where warring parties needed a neutral party to observe peace processes to assuming a wide range of duties including non-military functions.
These tasks included supporting peace processes, building sustainable institutions of governance, reforming security sectors, establishing rule of law, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants and protecting civilians.
Others are combating sexual and gender-based violence, assisting national elections, promoting the security of UN staff and helping to nurture the often fragile seeds of peace, all of which have several implications for both the mission and the peacekeeper.
Gen Smith commended Ghanaian peacekeeping officers for distinguishing themselves in positions of high responsibility in peacekeeping missions and receiving accolades and commendations from the UN system.
“I believe it is fitting that we honour these gallant men and women who serve the UN with such distinction and dedication, the government and people of Ghana are very proud of you” he stated.
Mr Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General’s in an address read on his behalf paid tribute to UN peacekeepers that had lost their lives in the course of their duties.
He said the tragedies that had befallen them this year was a “sobering reminder” of the risks entailed in the important work for peace.
The UN had suffered several tragedies this year including the murder of seven personnel in Afghanistan and 32 people, mostly UN staff killed in the crash of a plane serving peacekeeping operations in DR Congo. These and other events last year when 173 peacekeepers died due to natural disasters, violence, accidents and 100 in the January earthquake in Haiti became a terrible blow for the UN.
“Their deployment was a manifestation of our collective conviction that people who have survived a war should not have to suffer again through a period of insecurity, injustice and fear and that only by removing these conditions can we engender lasting peace” he stated.
Mr Ban said the theme, upholding the rule of law was vital to peacekeeping and required the strengthening of confidence in the police, justice systems and correctional services.
He thanked countries that contribute troops, police and civilian personnel to its operations including Ghana.
Mr Ban said the celebrations would also hail the accomplishment of the troops from supporting the South Sudan Referendum, helping resolve the post election crisis in Ivory Coast to supporting training capacity-building and institutional development of police in Timor-Leste.
The flags of Ghana, the UN, Ghana Armed Forces (GAR) and the Veterans Association of Ghana were hoisted to commemorate the day while five wreaths were laid in honour of those who lost their lives in peacekeeping operations.
The wreath on behalf of Ghana was laid by Gen Smith while Ms Ruby Sandhu Rojon, UN Resident Co-ordinator in Ghana laid one on behalf of the UN.
The rest were laid by Major General Peter Augustine Blay, Chief of Defence Staff for the GAR, Mr Mohammed Alhassan, Deputy Inspector General of Police for the security services while Mrs Gertrude Quaye, Wife of the Inspector General of Police laid one for spouses of fallen officers.
Two contingents drawn from the military, police and navy band were on parade.