By Kofi Ampeah-Woode

The handing/taking over ceremony of the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), between Brigadier General (Brig Gen) Abu Syed Mohammed Bakir of Bangladesh Armed Forces, and Brig Gen Constance Emefa Edjeani-Afenu, has been held.

The ceremony, which took place on Thursday, 19th September, 2019 at the Mission Headquarters in Laayoune, makes General Edjeani-Afenu, the first female to occupy such an important appointment, since the beginning of Peace Support Operations in Western Sahara in 1991.

In her brief words of acknowledgement, Brig Gen Edjeani-Afenu credited her predecessor for a good work done and pledged to work hard to help in the peace process in Western Sahara, looking forward to having the support of every member of the mission, for a successful tour of duty.

The Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) – Mr Colin Stewart, the Force Commander (FC) of MINURSO – Maj Gen Zia Ur Rehman, and the Chief of Mission Support (CMS) – Mrs Veneranda Jefferson, took turns in welcoming her, pledging their support and wished the Ghanaian General, the best in her new appointment.

Also present at the colourful ceremony were the Military and Civilian Chiefs of Staff Capt (N) Sow Amadou and Mr Alexander Ivanko, other section heads both Military and Civilians and United Nations Military Observers (UNMO).

Until her MINURSO appointment, Brig Gen Edjeani-Afenu was the first female in the following: to command the Forces Pay Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), to be appointed a Brigadier General in GAF, to be appointed Deputy Military Adviser (DMILAD) at the Permanent Mission of Ghana to the United Nations in New York from 2013 – 2016, Team Leader in MONUSCO as Military Observer in 2003 – 2004.

United Nations and GAF (who contributes Military Clerks and Military Observers to this MINURSO) has been making efforts towards increasing female numbers in Peace Keeping Operation, and the deployment of General Edjeani-Afenu and her Military Assistant (who is also a woman) has increased female participation in MINURSO from 21.8% to 22%.

MINURSO was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 690 of 29th April, 1991, in accordance with settlement proposals accepted on 30th August, 1988, by Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO).

The settlement plan, as approved by the Security Council, provided for a transitional period for the preparation of a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General was to have sole and exclusive responsibility over matters relating to the referendum and was to be assisted in his tasks by an integrated group of civilian, military and civilian police personnel, to be known as the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara.

On 29 April 2016, the Security Council adopted resolution 2285, calling upon the parties to the conflict to continue to show political will in order to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations.

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