President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was recognized as the Special Guest of Honor at the Program.
A dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says the book’s author is veteran journalist Mr. Frank Akinola, who served as the press secretary to ECOMOG field commanders during the Liberian civil war.
The Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Prof. Tunde Babawale reviewed the book. He said the author presented a detailed history of the Liberian nation, events leading to the Liberian civil war, ECOMOG and Nigeria’s roles. He then narrated the major expositions of the book, including the ECOMOG landing and the various war episodes in the book’s 26 chapters and 314 pages.
Book author Mr. Akinola, who assumed the post of press secretary under the then Field Commander Major General John Shagaya, ECOMOG’s sixth Field Commander, said the launch of his book has lifted a burden off his shoulders: “I thank God Almighty for the heavy burden he has lifted off my shoulders. It is a burden that I have borne for a very long time.”
He said the process of writing the book started 20 years ago. “It began in 1996 on Bushrod Island, Monrovia, Liberia, when the late ECOMOG Field Commander, General John Mark Inienger, asked me what my plans were after my tour of duty. I told him that if God took me through the shatters of war, and that if I returned home safely, I would write a comprehensive account of the Liberian crisis, including its origin and the actual war, as well as international conspiracies to these never ending wars in Africa. Today, the book is ready. Today, we are at this venue to present the book, which I started writing 20 years ago exactly this year.”
He hoped his book would help fill in the gap of essential teaching and learning resource materials in African military and other institutions.
He stated: “Today, Nigeria, and indeed the whole of West Africa cannot lay claim to any official documentation of ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone.”
“I suggest that all the awardees, officers and their men who played active roles in the ECOMOG operations to please go back home, sit down and write their personal accounts either individually or in collaboration with the respective armed forces of their countries that participated in the ECOMOG operations. It is by keeping such records that history will not be falsified”, he advised.
Making remarks on behalf of the Special Guest of Honor, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ambassador Al-Hassan lauded the author for his book initiative.
He said President Sirleaf could not attend the program because of the exigencies of her office, including an urgent visit to Cote d’Ivoire to express condolences for the terroristic attack on innocent lives at Grand Bassam.
Ambassador Conteh expressed President Sirleaf’s deep gratitude to the Government and people of Nigeria for Nigeria’s vanguard role in helping to restore peace to Liberia: “President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and all Liberians are indeed very grateful for the role that the Federal Republic of Nigeria played, being in the vanguard at the time. And it cost Nigeria a lot of resources and lives for ushering in the peace and stability that we have today in Liberia, and by extension in the sub-region.”
“I want to commend the author for this very important book on Liberia. I have read a lot of books on the Liberian civil war. I think this one will be the definitive story about ECOMOG’s role in Liberia, because the author used primary evidence. We really look forward to reading the book to see exactly the startling revelations that he has made,” the Liberian envoy noted.
Ambassador Conteh then used the occasion to announce that Liberia was back and open for business: “I would like to invite our brothers and sisters who are into business, after making all these sacrifices in Liberia, to invest in the reconstruction of Liberia. Of course, our first port of call is now the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Highlights of the Program included a citation on the author, book review, the formal presentation of the book and presentation of awards.
All former Force Commanders of ECOMOG, including the three who are now deceased were honored. Major Generals Ishaya Bakut, John Mark Inienger and Maxwell Khobe were posthumously awarded the Grand Commander of International Peace.
The other former ECOMOG Force Commanders and others who received the Grand Commander of International Peace Awards included Major General John Shagaya, now a Senator in Nigeria’s Nigerian National Assembly from Plateau State. Others were Lt. General Joshua Dogonyaro, Lieutenant General Samuel Victor Malu, Major General Timothy Shelpidi, Major General R. Kupolati, Major General Adetunji Olurin, Major General F.A. Mujakperuo and General M.L. Agwai
Recipients of the Grand Master of International Peace included veteran journalists Ben Asante and Lindsay Barret for “having served meritoriously at the Area of Operation under the auspices of the ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG)”.
According to the dispatch, the book launch was held at the Nigeria National Merit Award House in Abuja on Thursday, March 19, 2016. It was attended by members of the Diplomatic Corps, retired Nigerian generals who served in ECOMOG, members of Nigeria’s National Assembly, Nigerian journalists, and other distinguished invited guests.