For information only - not an official document.
  Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2608
Release Date: 10 July 2000
Secretary-General Stresses that Future of Africa Lies in Its Peopl e

NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headqurters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks today in Accra at the opening of an exhibition on United Nations Peacekeeping and presentation of the booklet: “Ghana:  Four Decades of UN and Regional Peackeeping”:

Thank you, Mr. President, for those kind words, and above all, for that rousing expression of support for our United Nations.  

As you say, we must make the United Nations a more effective instrument in the hands of the world's peoples, so that they can use it to build a more just and peaceful world.  There can be no more important goal in this millennium year.

I am proud to know that Ghana – our Ghana, my Ghana - can be relied on to play its full part.  Ghana’s commitment to the United Nations has long been plain for the world to see.  Today, we see that commitment documented before us. 

It is a story almost as long as the history of independent Ghana itself.  And like much of Ghana's history, it is a story of ordinary men and women who have done extraordinary things.

It begins 40 years ago, when Ghana was one of the first countries to dispatch troops to Congo, just 48 hours after the United Nations Security Council passed its resolution establishing our mission there.

Since that day, Ghanaian troops have gone on to distinguish themselves by their courage and their professionalism.  Ghanaians have served in 29 United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world, as well as in the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) in Liberia and Sierra Leone.  

In United Nations peacekeeping alone, 98 Ghanaians have made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in the service of peace.

If every picture tells a story, this exhibition tells many striking tales.  And all of them show the special combination of qualities that every peacekeeper needs:  loyalty matched by initiative; courage coupled with humility.

Take the example of Major General Henry Kwami Anyidoho.  In the darkest hour of Rwanda's tragedy, when the order came for the United Nations to withdraw, he at once decided to stay on with a small residual force.  As he has since recounted, it was a hard decision to explain to the troops.  But the reason was very simple:  they had a job to do.  They could not run away, leaving the victims of genocide to their fate. 

Or take Major Comfort Ankomah-Danso:  a wife, a mother, and a veteran of United Nations missions in Liberia, Lebanon and Rwanda.  She admits that women were not always fully welcomed on these missions by their male colleagues or superiors.  But, she says, since peace is the only thing that can save this planet, and since women make up more than half the planet's population, then of course women must take part in peacekeeping.

Or let us learn from the wisdom of Lieutenant-General Emmanuel Erskine, the first commander of UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.  He understood, not only that Ghana had something to give to peacekeeping, but also that peacekeeping had much to give back to Ghana.  

And sure enough, Ghana’s soldiers have become more professional.  They and their families enjoy a better standard of living.  Their horizons have widened.   They have opened up a new world view for their fellow citizens.  And they have become a force for stability at home.

Ghana's share in Middle East peacekeeping was code-named "Operation Sunrise".  And I’m glad to say the sun continues to shine on our peacekeepers in the region.  Today, following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, another Ghanaian is in the spotlight of history as force commander of UNIFIL:  Major-General Seth Kofi Obeng.  I saw him when I visited Lebanon last month, and we’ve been on the phone to each other almost every day since.  I can report that the sun is still shining.  In fact the heat at this time of year in Lebanon can be quite intense, politically as well as physically. 

But General Obeng and his troops are bearing up steadfastly, under the eyes of the whole world.

There are many others I could mention.  General Timothy Dibnana was Military Adviser to the Secretary-General at United Nations Headquarters.  Victor Gbeho, our Foreign Minister, has served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Somalia.  Hisham Omayyad was a senior official in United Nations operations in both Namibia and Somalia…  

And so on.  As we see from these examples, Ghana’s peacekeepers have not only made a vital contribution in themselves.  They can also inspire others to join in.  Today, such leadership is more important than ever.  In the past three years, we have seen a dramatic upsurge in United Nations peacekeeping.  

There are now 14 operations, spread across Europe, Africa and Asia.  Our peacekeepers are discharging complex and often unprecedented tasks – and, despite our problems, we will probably be asked to do even more in the future.  

Ghana's support will continue to be vital.  So we should be grateful to the Government and Armed Forces for establishing this International Peacekeeping Training Centre.  Through it, you will be able to share your experience and expertise with other West Africans, indeed with the whole continent.  And other States will bring their expertise here too.

Needless to say, I am deeply honoured that you have named the Centre after me.  It increases even more my sense of debt and gratitude to my native country -– a debt which goes back even farther than the story of Ghana and peacekeeping. 

I was lucky enough to grow up during the climactic phase of Ghana's independence struggle, and to see it crowned with success.  As Wordsworth wrote about the early days of the French Revolution, “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven”!
Even if there were disappointments to come -– as there always are in life -– one thing has stayed with me.  I have never felt that it’s not worth trying to change things for the better.  I know it can be done, because I have seen it happen. 

 I know that even monumental change can be achieved with little or no bloodshed, if good men and women are committed to seeing it through.

And I believe that even more strongly when I look at this exhibition, and remember the brave Ghanaians we are here to honour today.

Mr. President, you spoke just now about the current situation in Africa.  We will hear many different views about that, reflecting the rich diversity of our continent, when we go to Lomé on Monday for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit.

But my message will be clear:  the future of Africa lies in its people.  If we invest in them -– if we give them the education and freedom they need to choose their own path -– there is nothing we cannot achieve.  Whoever doubts that need only look at the example of those we are honouring today.  They showed what Africans can do, when they are given the chance.

And so, to those who gave us this inspiring example; to those who are serving today; and above all, to those who gave their lives in the service of peace:  I say, on behalf of the United Nations, “Medasi” to you all.

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