Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai yesterday, led an array of government officials, including the Coordinator of the Cabinet, Justice Minister Frederick Cherue, to sign the Book of Condolence in honor of the late Head of Mission to the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), Major-General Dr. Julius Facki Oketta.
Dr. Oketta passed away in Kampala, Uganda, following a heart attack on Saturday, November 5. He was 60 years old. He has since been buried.
Before signing the Book, V.P. Boakai described the late Major General as “a hero.”
“General Oketta came to Liberia and stood with us, fought and defeated Ebola. So we have come here to pay our respects to him by signing the Book of Condolence that the African Union Liaison Office in Monrovia has opened for him and by sending our condolence messages to the African Union family, the Government and people of Uganda and the bereaved family,” Boakai said.
He said Dr. Oketta’s death is a loss not only to the African Union, but Liberia as a member of the Union.
He recalled how the late Major General stood with Liberia during the height of the Ebola epidemic in the Mano River Union (MRU).
Major-General Oketta headed the ASEOWA Mission, which included 855 civilian and military health volunteers who, along with other partners, battled and defeated the Ebola virus disease in the three worst affected countries.
“He was not just a great soldier, he was also a humanitarian, someone who had concern and brought pride to Africa for being a true hero for the welfare of his continent and its peoples,” Boakai added.
He informed Major-General Oketta’s family that Liberia stands and mourns with them in this difficult period of bereavement.
VP Boakai was accompanied at the signing ceremony by Acting Foreign Affairs Minister B. Elias Shoniyin; Defense Minister, Brownie Samukai; Minister of State-designate, Sylvester Grigsby; Youth and Sports Minister, Saah Charles N’tow; Presidential Advisor on Foreign Affairs, George Wallace; and
National Investment Commission Chairperson, Etmonia D. Tarpeh.
The Officer in Charge of the AU Liaison Office, Prosper Nii Nortey Addo, said that it was an honor for him to host V.P. Boakai, who had come in to sign the Book of Condolence to honor General Oketta.
“The general played a good role, particularly when Ebola broke out. His efforts had been recognized by the government; so for the V.P. to make it here is really encouraging,” he said.
Addo assured everyone that the good works of Dr. Oketta will continue to linger for a very long time as he left an indelible mark. “Thanks to him and with the support of partners, Ebola is no longer here,” he added.
The late Major-General’s mission also extended to Sierra Leone and Guinea. In that regard, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Liberia, Brima Acha Kamara, said he felt saddened to come and sign the Book of Condolence for a “very fine officer.”
In September 2014, while the Ebola epidemic was ragging, Major-General Oketta was nominated to join the African Union-led humanitarian mission to address the threat to the continent. The mission, code-named ASEOWA, was based in Ethiopia.
On February 11, 2015, the Commander-in-Chief (C-I-C) of the Armed Forces of Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, honored Maj/Gen. Dr. Oketta for his contributions to the fight against Ebola and awarded him the decoration of “Distinguished Service Order” during the 58th Armed Forces Day celebration in Liberia.