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New UN Military Adviser takes up post amid surge in peacekeeping

New UN Military Adviser takes up post amid surge in peacekeeping

New Military Adviser of Peacekeeping Operations Lt.-Gen.Chikadibia Obiakor
The new Military Adviser to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has arrived in New York to take up his post, at a time when peacekeeping numbers and responsibilities are at an all time high.

Lieutenant General Chikadibia Obiakor of Nigeria is tasked with providing advice on all military issues in the context of UN peacekeeping, which now deploys more than 110,000 men and women in conflict zones worldwide. He is the first DPKO military adviser to hold the rank of Assistant Secretary-General.

The 57 year old has had a long and distinguished career with the Nigerian Army, beginning in 1973, rising up the ranks to become a three-star general in December 2005.

Prior to taking up his new post, Lieutenant General Obiakor was Force Commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which has helped stabilize the West African nation since its emergence from a brutal civil war, assisted in the conduct of democratic elections and carried out a large disarmament programme.

He has also served as the Commander of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) Artillery Brigade in Liberia in 1996 and 1997 and also as its chief coordinator of the country’s elections.

Looking back on his two and a half years as UNMIL’s top military official, Lieutenant General Obiakor told the UN News Service that one of the biggest challenges was securing Liberia’s borders with its neighbours, which was particularly important since, as he noted, “all the problems of Liberia had always started from somewhere outside.”

During his tenure, he negotiated joint border patrols between Liberia and Sierra Leone and Guinea. Just before he left the mission, he also facilitated border patrols between Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, led by the UN peacekeeping force in the former (UNOCI), and then between Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Another challenge that several peacekeeping missions have had to deal with is misconduct by UN personnel. Lieutenant General Obiakor pointed out that there has been progress in dealing with the issue, noting some of the steps that UNMIL had taken, but emphasized the need to “make sure we keep addressing the issue constantly.”

He stressed the importance of quickly investigating all allegations and taking the necessary disciplinary steps required. “I believe in the deterrence value, because if you don’t deal with the matter, the tendency is that somebody else will attempt it,” he said.

It was also during his tenure at UNMIL that an all-female Indian police contingent arrived in Liberia – the first time such a unit was deployed in a UN peacekeeping mission. Women bring “something very special” to peacekeeping, Lieutenant General Obiakor said, as he recalled the impact the unit had on local women.

He stressed that the presence of women in peacekeeping is vital to the success of any mission, particularly in “winning the hearts and minds of people,” he stated.

The uniformed personnel that serve in UN peacekeeping operations hail from 119 different countries, an all-time record. Nigeria is the fourth largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping operations.

“It’s not by accident that we found ourselves where we are,” he said, highlighting the responsibility a large and populous country like Nigeria has in helping its neighbours. As an old saying goes, “You can’t be at peace in your own house when there is trouble in another’s house,” he stated.

He added that he was very proud of the role Nigeria has played in UN peacekeeping. “I think Nigeria has a duty to do more for other smaller countries, particularly in our sub-region, and in Africa and the world.”