In fulfilment of Section 15 of the United Nations Mission in Liberia's (UNMIL) SOP, soldiers of the Ghanaian Battalion (GHANBATT) 13 were awarded UN Medals on Friday 08 April 2011 at the Battalion Headquarters in Buchanan, Liberia. It was an occasion for the UN to honour the troops and to show appreciation and gratitude for their contribution to peace and stability in Liberia. In view of this, there was a ceremonial parade to commemorate this award of peace medals.
In attendance were the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Cordinator of UN Operations in Liberia (SRSG), Her Excellency Madam Ellen Magareth Loj, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General Professor Mrs Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, the Acting Force Commander Brigadier General JK Kwasie, the Ambassador of Ghana to Liberia HE Kenneth Asare Bosmpem and a special Ghanaian Delegation led by Major General K Yankson, Commandant of the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College among others.
In a speech delivered by the SRSG, she said that the Slogan of GHANBATT 13 “One Step! Ahead! Is an embodiment of the words of Ghana's founding father Dr Kwame Nkrumah who said “We face neither East nor West; we face forward.” She indicated that this statement was made by Dr Nkrumah in the context of the East-West divide and the tumultuous geopolitics of his time but fundamentally, he believed in the role of the United Nations. It is therefore not surprising that the slogan of the unit is in the spirit of “facing forward”. On behalf of the Secretary-General of the UN she expressed her thanks to the Government of Ghana through the Ambassador of Ghana to Liberia and the Leader of the Ghanaian Delegation for Ghana's outstanding contribution to international peacekeeping.
She said that the 700 men and women of the battalion deserved the honour the UN had bestowed on them because they have performed their duties with the cooperation of the Liberian security agencies all aimed at preserving the peace and stability in Liberia. She added that the troops have been able to respond to incidents that threatened to disturb the hard won peace that Liberians enjoy today and thus have created the space for a much desired economic development which will lay the foundation for a better and more prosperous future for Liberians. She said the battalion did not lead the way only in their military duties but also through their Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities. The battalion embarked on medical outreach programmes, teaching in some schools within its area of operation, organising Computer and Generator Set lessons for locals and undertaking repair works and providing counselling sessions at the Buchanan Central Prisons as part of its contribution to providing humanitarian assistance to Liberians. By so doing the battalion was not only winning the hearts and minds of Liberians but was also assisting them in creating the foundation for a better future.
GHANBATT 13 again led the way on another front – one that she attaches a lot of importance to. That is gender balance in security forces. She said that the battalion had a total of 55 women making 8 percent of the total number of troops. Eight out of the number of females were officers making 20 percent of the total number of officers. These females were deployed side by side with their male counterparts to perform front line duties. This she said would increase the trust in the security forces and would inspire some Liberian women and girls to pursue a future in their national security agencies.
She recalled visiting Ghana during the 2008 Presidential Elections and after the results were declared and accepted and everything remained peaceful, a young Ghanaian woman said “In Africa, this can only happen in Ghana” She used the occasion to urge Liberians to also ensure that come this October they will have successful Elections so that they can also proudly say that “In Africa, it can also happen in Liberia”.
At a reception after the Medal Day parade, troops of the battalion showed their guests that even though they are on peacekeeping mission far away from home they haven't forgotten their traditions. They used the occasion to portray the rich Ghanaian culture through cuisine and traditional music and dance. The SRSG was also crowned as Nana Akosua GHANBATT I “Nkoso Hemaa” (Development Queenmother) for her love for Ghana as a country and for the Battalion.
GHANBATT 13 is formed around the 48 Engineer Regiment with Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mustapha and Major Kwakye Agyemang as the Commanding and Deputy Commanding Officers respectively. It is one of the two Engineer Units in the Ghana Army. In Ghana the Unit is mainly engaged in Internal Security Duties and the provision of Engineering works and assistance both to the military and the Government. They believe that whatever is impossible must be done at once and if you want a miracle they will only ask for a little time and it will be done.
Prior to Deployment, personnel of the Unit converged at a Battle Training Camp in Ghana to undergo a one month pre-operational training. This training was intended to increase the mental and physical robustness of all troops and to get them fully prepared for the task in UNMIL.
Indeed the training sessions have gone a long way to reflect positively on the overall performance of the battalion. Ghanbatt 13 took over responsible from Ghanbatt 12 in a spectacular ceremony at the Battalion Headquarters on 14 November 2010 and they have since performed their duties with dedication and professionalism knowing that as part of the UNMIL family, they have a duty which is to live up to the task and to strive to uphold the image of Ghana and the UN. The Battalion also brought with it to the area of operations, the traditional Ghanaian Hospitality. This coupled with good human and community relations endeared it to the hearts of the local population in Liberia.