Female troops are key to the peacekeeping efforts of Ghana's contingent in Unity State. They, and their male colleagues, were recently awarded medals for their great performance. Photos: Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/UNMISS
Take a bow, Ghana. No less than 696 of your finest sons (594) and daughters (102) have received UN medals for their outstanding service while serving for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), based in the notoriously challenging environment of Unity State.
“Whoever will see this medal will know that we made a contribution to building lives and peace in South Sudan,‘’ declared Captain Emmanuel Abugri Salifu with ill-concealed, justified pride and excitement.
The Ghanaian troops, who arrived in Unity State in July 2021, have surely had ample opportunities to prove their undisputed worth, not least during the worst floods the region has experienced over the last 60 years.
Apart from their traditional protection of civilians duties, the contingent has often worked in tandem with Pakistani engineering colleagues by ensuring their safety while essential infrastructure maintenance work has been conducted. Their combined efforts saved the Rubkhona airstrip, a lifeline for the state capital Bentiu, and thousands of civilians from being submerged in water.
“I am proud of my work as chief logistics officer of the Ghanaian Battalion,” said Major Georgina Asabea Asare. “Ensuring that we are present where and when needed through the timely and effective deployment of personnel and equipment is key when it comes to protecting civilians,” she added.
Always keen to build bridges with host communities in South Sudan, the Ghanaian Blue Helmets have also undertaken several capacity buildings and vocational trainings on skills ranging from computer literacy to tailoring, thus greatly improving the likelihood of participants becoming gainfully employed.
“Your diversified outreach activities have had a significant impact on the local community and to the peacekeeping mission as well,” said Major General Main Ullah Chowdhury, the UNMISS Acting Force Commander. “The extensive medical services and donations of essential medical supplies that you have provided have also gone a long way to assist those in need,” he continued, as he listed the countless virtues of the contingent.
In recent times, the Ghanaian troops have been at the forefront of protecting civilians in the frequently volatile southern part of Unity State, where their robust presence, including day and night patrols in violence-plagued areas, have greatly benefitted local communities and humanitarian workers alike.
“It is certainly challenging, but it is also exciting to work with and for the people of South Sudan,” said 25-year-old Aircraftman Class I Irene Larbi, the youngest of the medalists. “This is my first time to serve in a UN peacekeeping mission. This medal means a lot, it is a big source of motivation to me”.
Hiroko Hirahara, Head of the peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Bentiu, heaped more praise over the West African contingent.
“They are well known for their proactiveness and braveness. We are very lucky to have them here with us,” she said.
And in Unity State they shall remain for another couple of months, doing what they do best: working tirelessly, or, as the battalion’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Mfum, expressed the sentiment:
“There is still lots of important work to be done, and until the last day of our service with UNMISS, we shall not rest.”