Ghanaian peacekeepers: Keeping the UN flag flying high despite crisis

UNIFIL Ghanaian peacekeepers in their main base in the village of Al Qawzah, south Lebanon. (Photo: Haidar Fahs/UNIFIL)

Ghanaian Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Frank Agyeman (left), joined by civil-military cooperation officer, Capt. Sylvia Abgenyo, visits sisters Nazha Najem (second from left) and Terese in their residence in Al Qawzah, south Lebanon. (Photo: Haidar Fahs/UNIFIL)

Ghanaian Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Frank Agyeman being interviewed in his office. (Photo: Haidar Fahs/UNIFIL)

A Ghanaian peacekeeper uses binoculars to scan the area close to the village of Al Qawzah as smoke rises in distance due to an artillery fire. (Photo: Haidar Fahs/UNIFIL)

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30 Apr 2024

Ghanaian peacekeepers: Keeping the UN flag flying high despite crisis

Peacekeeping amidst daily exchanges of fire – sometimes receiving direct hits – can be a formidable undertaking. 

But Ghanaian peacekeepers are among UNIFIL’s more than 10,000 women and men in uniform who continue to keep the UN flag flying high by operating in an area that’s one of the most affected and largely deserted. 

Arriving to the home of Ghanaian peacekeepers, in the village of Al Qawzah in south-western Lebanon, requires some grit. The road itself is a trail of destruction, zigzagging through some of the hardest-hit villages since the violence across the Blue Line erupted on 8 October 2023: Alma al-Sha’b, Dhaira, Yarin and Al Bustan.

Waiting outside the Ghanaian Battalion’s main base is Lieutenant Colonel Frank Agyeman, the commander. He paints a sobering picture of the area since last October. 

“We have seen the neighourhoods that we live and work in – where we used to stop, interact, assure them and give them hope – damaged and destroyed,” says Lt. Col. Agyeman. “Most of the residents we used to see and talk to have now left. They have all abandoned their villages, with the exception of probably one village, Rmeish.”

Despite all the challenges and real risks, Ghanaian peacekeepers are in their positions and on the ground carrying out their tasks by adapting to the new situation. Lt. Col. Agyeman says his base has been hit a few times, resulting in some injuries. In one incident, a Ghanaian peacekeeper was shot in the lower abdomen.

“Due to air-strikes and continuous shelling from both north and south of the Blue Line some of our operational activities and other movements have been interrupted almost every day,” he adds. “Furthermore, our community engagement with locals, mukhtars, and mayors has been significantly disrupted.”

Help to sisters who stayed behind in a deserted village

The village of Al Qawzah, which is just three kilometres from the closest point of the Blue Line, appears nearly deserted with almost all of the village’s some 2,000 registered inhabitants having fled to safer locations. 

Amidst this emptiness, two elderly women, Nazha Najem and her sister Terese, who live close to the UNIFIL base, staunchly refuse to abandon their home. 

Lt. Col. Agyeman, alongside other peacekeepers, makes regular visits to their residence to ensure their well-being and assess their needs. The UN peacekeepers have given them heaters, medical and food supplies, and have fixed electrical cables in their house.

“All the people in the village left, but I stayed with my sister; we will not leave our house,” says Nazha. “There is a person who stayed in the village, he takes me once a week to Rmeish village to bring all the stuff we need.”

And, Lt. Col. Agyeman is proud of the work done by his women and men in uniform. 

“Participating in UNIFIL is a privilege, following in the footsteps of past Ghanaian peacekeepers and contributing to peace in Lebanon. Flying the Ghanaian and UN flags instills in me a sense of pride and accomplishment,” he says. “I wish that the prolonged suffering of the people in south Lebanon will come to an end, and the path for a diplomatic and political solution will be paved soon.”

Ghana is one of the oldest – and, currently with over 870 troops – one of the largest troop-contributing countries. UNIFIL’s first Head of Mission and Force Commander was also a Ghanaian, the late General Emmanuel Erskine, who was at the helm of UNIFIL from its establishment in March 1978 to February 1981. 


You can also listen to the UNIFIL radio programme on this visit to the UNIFIL base in the village of Al Qawzah, south-western Lebanon: