Profile of ECOMIL Force Commander Festus Okechukwu Okonkwo


The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted September 25, 2003

Due to the precarious political, military and humanitarian situation obtaining in Liberia especially during the last three months (June - August 2003), facilitators at the Accra peace talks negotiated a cease-fire that was signed by the three belligerent forces (LURD, MODEL, GOL) on June 17, 2003. No sooner had the cease-fire been signed, it was broken.

During the third round of the recent Monrovia fighting which had a catastrophic humanitarian consequences on the entire population, there was a need for ECOWAS to establish a ‘robust’ stabilization force to separate the belligerent forces and allow humanitarian organizations access to all areas of the country beginning with securing the Freeport of Monrovia.

Since securing the Roberts International Airport (RIA) on August 4,2003, with a small contingent of Nigerian troops backed by a US team off-shore, ECOWAS’ Monitoring Group in Liberia (ECOMIL) has made tremendous strides.

In collaboration with the US through its ambassador, John W. Blaney III, ECOMIL has made significant efforts towards stabilizing the conflict and implementing the Accra peace agreement on Liberia.

To date, the multinational peace-keeping force has deployed all around Monrovia and its environs. They are as far as Po River in the west; Totota and Kakata in the northwest; and recently, the Harbel-Buchanan highway in the east.

Humanitarian activities have begun in earnest. What is worth-mentioning though is so far, ECOMIL’s operations have been a success. NOT ONE SOLDIER has died.

Who is the Commander of the vanguard ECOMIL multi-national forces sacrificing their lives that Liberians may live. Today, we profile (Brig. Gen.) Festus Okechukwu Okonkwo, Commander of ECOWAS Monitoring Force in Liberia (ECOMIL).

Brig. Gen. Festus Okechukwu Okonkwo was born May 30,1951 (52 years ago) in Agbani, Enugu State, Nigeria.

Gen. Okonkwo, at an early age, felt his calling was the military. Therefore, following his secondary education, he commenced his military training at the Nigerian Defense Academy. He later had the opportunity to improve his skills in the military when he did studies including the Young Officers Armour Course, Ibadan and Jungle Warfare Course, NASI, Jaji.

He later did Tank Company Commanders courses in Russia; Junior and Senior Staff Courses at CSC Jaji; a Tank Technology Course in India; an Armour Officers Advanced Course in the United States of America and later climaxed his military training at the National War College in Nigeria.

It has not been all military training for Brig. Gen. Okonkwo. He pursued graduate studies at the University of Ibadan, graduating with a MSc degree in Strategic Studies.

All during his military training, the ECOMIL force commander has held a number of Staff, Command and Teaching appointments. Among command positions, he has served as Commander of ECOMOG Ground Task Force here in Liberia. He also served as Defense Adviser at the Embassy of Nigeria in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

As it relates to teaching appointments, the soft-spoken ECOMIL FC served as Senior Instructor, Armoured Corps and School, Bauchi; Director of Staff, Command and Staff College, Jaji; Acting Director Operations, and later acting Director of Training, Army Headquarters.

He also served as Deputy Commandant, Armoured Corps Centre and School; Director Army Support Training Centre, Headquarters (TRADOC) and Principal Staff Officer for Coordination, Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji.

Brig. Gen. Festus Okechukwu Okonkwo has earned a number of service awards including Forces Service Staff (FSS); Meritorious Service Star (MSS); Passed Staff (PSC+); and a Fellow of War College (FWC).

He loves reading, traveling and listening to music.
Brig. Gen Okonkwo is happily married to Selinah Ifeoma and are blessed with three children.

© 2003: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.