Ghana has joined the rest of the world to lay wreath in honour of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving under the UN flag last year.
In all, 98 peacekeepers, including two Ghanaians, perished while serving in the cause of peace in 2018.
The fallen Ghanaian peacekeepers are DCP Frank Sammy Kwofie, who served with the UN Police in the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID); and Corporal Mercy Adade, who served with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL).
This year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers is on the theme, “Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace,” to turn the world’s attention to the state of civilians in the cause of peacekeeping.
Dr Owen Kaluwa, World Health Organization Country Director, Ghana, and Resident Coordinator, reading a speech on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said since 1948, when the UN peacekeeping mission was established, more than 3,800 peacekeepers had lost their lives serving under the UN flag.
He said: “Last year alone, we lost 98 peacekeepers” including the two Ghanaians.
He paid glowing tribute to those peacekeepers whom in the defense of peace and in their efforts to restore normalcy in conflict areas, had paid greatly with their lives, leaving behind family, friends and loved ones.
“We acknowledge the selfless sacrifices and contributions of DCP Frank Sammy Kwofie and CPL Mercy Adade and the many fallen peacekeepers.
May their souls rest in peace and may their families and loved ones be consoled,” he added.
Dr Kaluwa noted that in 14 peacekeeping operations on four continents, UN Peacekeeping deploys more than 88,000 military and police personnel, nearly 13,000 civilian personnel, and 1,300 UN Volunteers from 124 member States.
“Proudly, we acknowledge Ghana as the 9th largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping, with nearly 2,800 military and police personnel to the UN peace operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Mali, the Middle East, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Western Sahara.”
He said this year, the UN marks 20 years since the Security Council first mandated a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians, adding that, peacekeepers protect men, women and children from violence every day, often at great personal risks.
Mr Dominic Nitiwul, the Minister of Defence, announced that this year, Ghana has lost one peacekeeper serving in Syria and extended condolences to the bereaved families and friends on behalf of government and the people Ghana.
He said Ghana was one of the first countries to respond to the call from the UN to contribute officers for peacekeeping, and was ranked the 9th contributor to peacekeeping worldwide and the 4th in Africa.
He noted that Ghana enjoyed relative peace on the continent and urged the men and women to jealously guard against any threat that would undermine their peacekeeping efforts.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mr Charles Wiredu, Dr Kaluwa, Mr Nitiwul and representative of spouses of the Fallen Heroes took their turn to lay wreaths on behalf of Government and the people of Ghana, the United Nations, security services and the fallen heroes, respectively.
In a special event as part of the commemorations in New York, the UN Chief paid tribute to the late Private Chancy Chitete of Malawi, who was hit by enemy fire while protecting and administering life-saving first aid to his wounded Tanzanian comrade, Corporal Omary.
Private Chitete became only the second winner of the UN’s highest peacekeeping award, the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” which was established in 2014 for uniformed and civilian personnel who meet the criteria, and named after the late UN peacekeeper Captain Diagne – the first posthumous recipient of the award – who saved hundreds of lives in Rwanda in 1994, before being killed.
“The world does not have many true heroes”, said the UN Chief, but Private Chitete, who was serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), was “indeed one of them”.
In November last year, while conducting an operation to stop armed attacks, which were disrupting the Ebola response in local towns, peacekeepers came under heavy fire. As bullets were flying, Private Chitete dragged Corporal Omary back to an area “of greater safety”, Mr. Guterres recounted.
“Both were evacuated for medical treatment. Corporal Omary survived. Private Chitete did not”.
Following the wreath laying, the UN Chief honoured 119 brave men and women with the Dag Hammarskjold medal.
“Fifty-eight years ago, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in the Congo while trying to broker a peace agreement to end the conflict in the country”, said Mr. Guterres, calling the former UN chief “a tireless and fearless champion of peace” who took “robust action when needed”.