21 June 2004

Ghana: 44 Years of Ghana's Participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations


On July 12 1960, the then President of Congo, Joseph Kasavubu, and his Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, requested the assistance of the United Nations in restoring internal security following inter-ethnic fighting and a mutiny by the army in that country.

Subsequently, the UN Secretary Council met and passed Resolution 132 of 13/14 July which resulted in the establishment of United Nations Operations in the Congo (ONUC). A call then went out to member countries of the UN to contribute troops for this operation. Barely 48 hours after this resolution had been passed, the first batch of Ghanaian troops arrived in the Congo for peacekeeping operations.

Since July 15 1960 when the first Ghanaian troops were deployed in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO), Ghana has not looked back. Today, after 44 years of international peacekeeping; after participating in 22 UN peacekeeping operations as formed troops and military observers; after ranking 5th among 89 countries which provide peacekeeping personnel worldwide; and after having provided the UN with Force Commanders on three different missions as well as highly professional key appointment holders; the Ghana Armed Forces can proudly boast of the role they played and are playing in ensuring international peace and security and in making the world a safer place to live in.

In order to appreciate the concept of peacekeeping and evaluate the role it has played in the professional development of the Ghana Armed Forces, it has become necessary to trace the history of peacekeeping and indicate the transformation that has taken place since the concept was first mooted.


A peacekeeping operation comprises "those activities organised by the UN (Sub-regional groupings) which aim at the prevention, alleviation and termination of conflict". A peacekeeping operation is normally carried out by a UN-led multinational force composed of military personnel, civilian police and civilians intervening in inter- or intra- state conflict as benevolent third parties.

A peacekeeping force may be deployed based on the principle that the parties to the conflict have agreed to cease hostilities and have consented to the positioning of a force to act as a buffer between the warring parties. The force deployed also accepts to display impartiality in dealing with issues that crop up and will resort to the use of force only in self defence.

The first peacekeeping operation established in 1948 followed the Arab-Israeli conflict of that year, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), was composed of a military observer group of unarmed officers. However, peacekeeping has diversified over the years to include peace enforcement, peace building and peace restoration operations, these collectively being termed Peace Support Operations (PSO). The gamut of tasks involved in PSO includes observation, monitoring and supervision of truces and ceasefires; interposition of troops to deter further hostilities; transition assistance which involves military assistance to civil authorities in such tasks as transfer of power or electoral assistance; demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) of combatants; humanitarian assistance to the deprived such as refugees and internally displaced persons, mine awareness and mine clearance operations.

At the time of adopting the United Nations Charter, the members might only have been thinking of situations where a country or countries with well-defined borders go to attack a country or countries with the aim of achieving a military victory. However, today, the absence of conflict does not necessarily mean the presence of peace and security. Economic and social realities, including bad governance, human right abuses, famine, environmental degradation and poverty have been known to create national and international tensions.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that most of the conflicts we have now are more of intra-national problems that have been allowed to blow out of proportion making governments incapable of dealing with the situation. With the advance in technology the realities of conflict are brought to our homes and the world cannot stand aloof when such miseries and terrible events occur. As such the world is obliged to intervene since, with the proximity of states and the possibility of spill-over effects during conflicts, international peace and security may be compromised if efforts are not made to localise or contain the situation.

This work normally falls within the court of the United Nations which may deploy a peacekeeping force while lasting political solutions to the conflict are found.

UNPKOs and Africa

Since its inception in 1948 to 1988, a span of 40 years, the United Nations undertook 13 peacekeeping operations. However, between 1988 and 1994, 21 new peacekeeping operations were established. This is an indication of the mushrooming of peacekeeping activities with the end of the cold war.

Additionally, it could be observed that the trend of peacekeeping has changed over the years. Most of the 13 operations established before 1988 followed the traditional peacekeeping concept. This type of peacekeeping operation was largely military in composition and involved the positioning of peacekeepers between two or more disciplined forces living in well-defined boundaries.

The peacekeepers are deployed in buffer zones which they control to monitor ceasefires so as to prevent further hostilities. They also ensure that there is calm at the forward edge of battle area in order to provide that calm environment needed for the resumption of a negotiated settlement to the conflict for peace building operations.

In contrast to the traditional peacekeeping concept, most of the 43 new peacekeeping operations that were established in the period beginning from 1988 sought to ensure a settlement hat had already been arrived at by the parties to the conflict with the support of the United Nations. These operations have involved a large civilian component and have, as part of the mandate of the force, to protect civilians and ensure the delivery of badly needed humanitarian assistance. The peacekeeping troops may have to use force to protect civilians and to implement the mandate if there is reason to believe a humanitarian crisis will result if peace is not enforced. This is termed Second Generation Peacekeeping.

It is troubling to note that 20 of the 43 peacekeeping operations established by the UN since 1998 were in Africa. Of the 15 current United Nations peacekeeping operations, six are in Africa namely; United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), United Nations Mission in la Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI), United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMIEE), United Nations Mission in Congo (UNMIC) United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone( UNMISL) the United Nations Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO)

UNPKOs and Ghana Armed Forces

Of the 52 United Nations peacekeeping operations since the United Nations Charter came into force, the Ghana Armed Forces has participated in 22 of these operations either as formed troops or military observers. Ghana Armed Forces has participated in the operations listed below as formed troops:

a. United Nations Operations in the Congo, ONOC, ( July 1960- June 1964).

b. United Nations Emergency Force in Sinai, UNEF II, (October 1973- July 1979)

c. United Nations Interim Force in the Lebanon, UNIFL (August 1978-present)

d. United Nations Transitional Assistance in Cambodia, UNTAC, ( February 1992-September 1993)

e. United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, UNAMIR (October 1993-March 1996)

f. United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL (January 1999-present)

g. United Nations Mission in the Congo, MONUC (June 2000-present)

h. United Nations Mission in the Cote d'Ivoire, UNOCI (formerly ECOMICI January 2002-present)

i. United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNIMIL (formerly ECOMIL September 2002-present)

The Ghana Armed forces has also participated in the following United Nations operations as military observers:

a. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation UNTSO, (June 1948-present)

b. United Nations Yemen Observation Mission, UNYOM ( July 1963-September 1964)

c. United Nations Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, UNGOMAP ( May 1998-March 1990)

d. United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group, UNIIMOG (August 1988-Febuary 1991)

e. United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO (April 1991-present)

f. United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission UNIKOM ( April 1991-March 1992)

g. United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia UNAMIC (October 1991-March 1992)

h. United Nations Protection Force UNPROFOR (February 1992-March 1995)

i. United Nations Aouzou Strip Observer Group UNASOG (May -June1994)

j. United Nations Preventive Deployment Force UNPREDEP (March 1995-1999)

k. United Nations Observer Mission in Angola MONUA (April 1998 to October 1999)

l. United Nations Mission in the Congo, MONUC (1999-present)

m. United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, UNMEE (September 2000-present)

On the Sub-regional and Regional front, Ghana provided troops for the ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group, ECOMOG in Liberia and Sierra Leone between 1990 and 1999 and for ECOWAS Mission in Cote d'Ivoire, ECOMICI from 2000 to 2004. The first ECOMOG Force Commander was Lt. Gen. Arnold Quainoo. Other senior officers who served with the ECOMOG were Brig. Gen. A K Agbemasu, Maj. Gen. J. P. Adda (then Brig. Gen.), Lt Gen. S. K. Obeng (then Brig. Gen.), Brig. Gen T. E. Nguah , Brig. Gen. A. K. Kwarteng and Brig. Gen. H. W. K. Agbevey. All of them served as Deputy Force Commanders (DFC). Col. Albert Lamptey also served briefly as DFC.

When the Ethiopia-Eritrea border crisis resumed in 2000, the then OAU requested Ghana to nominate an officer as the OAU Senior Military Representative to the Military Coordination Commission responsible for resolving issues in the peace process. Brig. Gen. P. A. Blay was therefore seconded to UNMEE Headquarters in Asmara, Eritrea, for two years to assist the mission in monitoring the Ethiopian-Eritrean crisis.

Nature of current PKOs

The sacrifices made by Ghanaian peacekeepers will be better appreciated if we consider that conflicts of today, especially in Africa, are becoming increasing ethnic in nature or civil wars where parties to the conflict are rebels or militias with no clear cut command and control procedures which in turn make United Nations Mandate very difficult to attain.

Our professional soldiers were in the thick of affairs when dead bodies were used as roadblocks on a major highway during one of the operations. In another instance, the expertise of the Ghanaian soldiers was relied upon when orders were issued by a guerrilla leader for a bloody operation code named Surgical Guerrilla Military Operation, (SUGUMO) in one of the peacekeeping operations. In that operation, guerrillas used cutlasses, knives and axes to behead and disembowel displaced people in the dead of night.

When the going got tough and "the world " withdrew from Rwanda, abandoning the defenceless to the mercy of faceless killers; at a time when reason had ceased to exist and the animal instinct of man had taken control of an entire population; at a time when maniacal savagery and depravity was rewarded with glee; at a time when the press extolled the virtues of bloodshed and whipped up sentiments to animalistic levels; the Ghana Armed Forces, made up of courageous individuals stayed back to defend the defenceless.

The professional competence and the astuteness of the Ghanaian and the ability of the Ghanaian soldier to ride tough when shove came to heave, was called into play. In the process Ghanaians sowed seeds of honour, sacrifice, empathy and hope in the hearts of those who are living today as a result of the dedicated service provided by the Ghanaian soldier.

In the process of our peacekeeping efforts, Ghanaians, as part of ECOMOG, were able to introduce the term "Sub-regional peacekeeping" into the world vocabulary. ECOMOG could easily be regarded as the lodestar for regional peacekeeping initiatives the world over. It superseded the Implementation Force (IFOR) led by NATO following the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement and it could be argued that IFOR built upon the experiences of ECOMOG in handling the Yugoslav situation.

ECOMOG tested and perfected the ability of using an African force to solve an African problem and the results and lessons learnt should have placed Africa in a better position in resolving African problems. But did the Ivorian crisis show that we have learnt our lessons?

It is on record that about 100,000 Ghanaian troops have rotated in these United Nations and Sub-regional peacekeeping operations. In thick and thin, Ghanaian soldiers have risked their lives in some of the world's most dangerous and challenging conflict zones in pursuit of international peace and security.

The scenes witnessed by our soldiers, the nostalgic feelings of déjà vu when faced with abnormal situations, the extent of damage witnessed and the hard lessons that must be learnt at the end of every conflict, has created indelible imprints on the minds of the Ghanaian soldier and this propels him to the class of peacekeeping the Ghanaian soldier is associated with. As we broach over these experiences, we wonder, when shall we learn as a continent from our experiences?


A number of Ghanaian officers have provided leadership in peacekeeping operations. Lt Gen. E.A. Erskine was the first Force Commander of UNIFIL (Lebanon), when the force was set up in 1978. Before then Lt Gen. Erskine was the Chief of Staff at UNTSO Headquarters in Jerusalem. Next to follow in his footsteps was Lt Gen. S. K. Obeng who became Force Commander of MONUA (Angola) between April 1998 and October 1999. Lt Gen. Obeng was later appointed Force Commander of UNIFIL, a position he held until March 2001 when he was appointed the Chief of Defence staff of the Ghana Armed Forces.

Other Ghanaians who have held various top military appointments in the United Nations include Brig. Gen. J.E. Michel who was Chief of staff at ONUC Headquarters in Congo in the early sixties, Maj. Gen. T.K. Dibuamah, one time Military Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General and Chief Military Observer in UNIKOM, Kuwait, between 1974 and 1996 and Major General H.K. Anyidoho, Chief Military Observer and deputy Force Commander in UNAMIR (Rwanda) between 1994 and 1995. Maj. Gen C.B. Yaache, the present Army Commander was a Sector Commander in UNAMIR in Rwanda and was in charge of troops from Ghana, Bangladesh and Tunisia in addition to Military Observers from other countries.

Brig. Gen. I.G.M.K. Kpeto, Brig. Gen. J. Odei and Brig. Gen. T.E. Nguah served as Deputy Force Commanders (DFC) at in UNIFIL Headquarters in Lebanon at various times while Maj. Gen. A.K. Twumasi, Maj. Gen. A.K. Djangmah and Brig. R.K. Dzogbenuku served as Chiefs of Staff (COS) at the UNIFIL Headquarters. Currently the Deputy Force Commander in UNIFIL is Brig. Gen. D.C.K. Kattah, who was once Chief Military Observer with UNPREDEP (Prevlaka). Similarly the current Deputy Force Commander at UNAMSL (Sierra Leone), Brig. Gen. P.K. Opoku was once Deputy Force Commander with ECOMICI (la Cote d'Ivoire).

Brig. Gen. F. Adu-Amanfoh was a planning officer in the Department of peacekeeping Operations working on Standby Force arrangement for the UN while Brig. Gen. Debrah was Planning and Senior Military Officer, Mission Planning Service and Office of Operations (Asia and Middle East). Presently, Brig. Gen. Dan Frimpong is the first ever Military adviser at Ghana's permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

These aside, many more officers and men too many to enumerate have had distinguished careers serving the United Nations.


Our participation in peacekeeping operations has resulted in the exposure of the Ghanaian soldier to the outside world. The Ghanaian soldier has rubbed shoulders with colleagues from all parts of the world, including the developed world. The challenges posed by modern day peacekeeping require that the soldier maintains a high level of professionalism and this demands that our soldiers train continuously to achieve acceptable standards and confidence in command. It has also given troops firsthand information on the horrors and ugliness of conflicts and their effects on a country and its citizenry.

With the experience from peacekeeping missions, the soldier would not like to see these horrors of conflict visiting his or her country. Hence the determination of Armed Forces together with our civilian colleagues, to work assiduously towards a peaceful environment in our dear country where there is sufficient guarantee of security to enable us to go about our economic activities in peace.

Our participation in these operations has also contributed considerably to troops' economic and social well-being. The soldiers return home with lager visions and better understanding of realities of life. It is an undeniable fact that peacekeeping by itself cannot end wars. However, Ghana's active participation in peacekeeping has provided lessons that keep reminding soldiers that a stable country is the best option. Above all, it has given time and space for conflict resolution, relieved suffering and reconciled warring factions thereby giving peace a chance.

Challenges and the Future

Four types of conflicts have plagued Africa in the past two decades. These are wars of attrition as experienced in the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict; factional warfare as was in the Liberian crisis; genocide- and ethnic-based conflict as was experienced in Rwanda and Burundi; and regional conflicts as was seen in the democratic republic of Congo where a sizeable number of countries were involved.

It will be observed that within the period under discussion, there has been a marked increase in both the complexity and frequency of peacekeeping operations on a scale unprecedented on the continent. These operations have involved much complex and dangerous tasks such as weapon control, refugee relief work, post conflict reconstruction and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration among others.

The impact of these conflicts have caused so much human tragedy, created child soldiers, resulted in civilian casualties and created internally displaced persons and refugees.

If the trend should continue, it is apparent that Africa will be inundated with peacekeeping operations. The United Nations will therefore be faced with considerable challenges in seeking financial, logistics, political and personnel resources to sustain its peacekeeping operations. For instance, in addition to the six UN peacekeeping operations on the continent today, it is likely that new ones will be opened in Sudan and Burundi and these will necessitate additional resources.

Currently the United Nations has about 51,000 staff engaged in its missions worldwide and this figure is expected to shoot up to 78,000 if the new missions are opened. Ghana will be required to increase its contribution of troops to these operations since it is becoming apparent that the international community is shying away from direct involvement in peacekeeping on the continent. The will to contribute peacekeepers to African peacekeeping missions appears to be lax.

Request for increase in troop contributions means recruiting more personnel purchase of modern equipment, provision of a standby force and availability of financial support to back any mission deployed, considering that the United Nations requires that troop contributing countries should be able to sustain their activities for length of time.

The AIDS pandemic and its effects on peacekeeping mission is another big challenge never to be underrated.

If the trend of peacekeeping in Africa should continue, then the future for our continent is discouraging. In as much as conflict and natural disasters continue to plague our continent, they will leave along increasing numbers of refugees and displaced persons, human tragedy, child soldiers, instability and in some places, anarchy. The economy will continue to experience poor growth, the AIDS pandemic will continue to wreck havoc, the physical environment will continue to be degraded and the humanitarian crisis in sub-Saharan Africa will deepen. All in all, a gloomy and depressing future awaits Africa unless we are able to resolve the issues that give rise to the conflicts. These include good governance, equitable distribution of national wealth and the rule of law.


The Ghana Armed Forces has a proud and distinguished history in peacekeeping operations. The professional excellence displayed on these operations has been recognised and appreciated. The international community respects and admires the capacity of the Ghana Armed forces to live up to the task.

It is in the light of this that we say 'kudos' to all peacekeepers in the world in general and in particular Ghanaian peacekeepers, past and present, for the dedication and sacrifices they made and are making to the peace and security of the world.

We also lost about 100 soldiers (all ranks) and as we celebrate Peacekeepers day, let us be remind that their Sacrifices should be in vain. Let us use their sacrifices to guide ourselves in the search for peaceful and stable environment.

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