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TRANSCRIPT: Retired Nigerian General Martin Luther Agwai "Visionary Award" acceptance speech
LISBON, Portugal, June 23, 2010 - Retired Nigerian General Martin Luther Agwai was awarded the "Visionary Award" during a Senior Leaders Seminar hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Agwai's was recognized for his
LISBON, Portugal, June 23, 2010 - Retired Nigerian General Martin Luther Agwai was awarded the "Visionary Award" during a Senior Leaders Seminar hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Agwai's was recognized for his outstanding contributions to promoting democracy, improving civil-military relations, countering ideological support for terrorism and fostering good governance in Africa.

Following is the transcript of Gen. Agwai's acceptance speech.

GEN AGWAI: I am very pleased to be here with you today to receive the Visionary Award; Achievement in Peace and Security. I feel honoured, humbled and deeply moved that you should accord this unique honour to a simple soldier from a small village in Nigeria. A village that will hardly appear on a Nigerian map no matter how blown up or enlarge it is. So I do not consider myself as someone special. However, I believe that this award is in recognition of my contribution to military professionalism, visionary leadership and efforts in creating an enabling environment for peace and security in Africa.

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the African Centre for Strategic Studies most especially the award committee for having found me worthy of consideration for this honour. My appreciation also to the organizing committee of this yearrâ?s visionary award ceremony for a wonderful reception in this beautiful city.

My career in the Nigerian Armed Forces which spanned about 40 years provided me with great opportunity to contribute to peace and security in Africa, which has been inundated for the last 2 decades with violent conflicts. Africa has had its fair share of conflicts, as wars between nations have increasingly given ways to wars within nations. The re-insurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgency and failed states have increasingly posed major challenges to the military in Africa. I rose to the highest office in my countryyâ?s Army and the entire Armed Forces which I commanded for 3 and one years respectively. While I was the Chief of Army Staff, my Government answered the call of the international community through my office and we rapidly and robustly deployed the vanguard force of the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL) in 2003, which re-hatted into United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) at a time the security situation in that country deteriorated to its lowest ebb. We achieved that at a time when most countries were not ready to contribute troops to another mission in Liberia after the experience of the 19900â?s. In 2004 in the same capacity I deployed the first Nigerian Contingent to Darfur, Sudan which was part of the vanguard force of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). We swiftly increased our troops strength to meet the security challenges in the 2 countries hence making Nigeria the largest troop contributing country (TCC) to both missions. As the then Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army, I am delighted to state that Nigeria became the largest African TCC for peacekeeping and remain so. Today, Nigeria is the worlddâ?s 4th largest TCC to the United Nations.

Without sounding immodest, activities of the Nigerian Army was not limited to UN missions as some remarkable achievements were also recorded at home. The clearing of the epicentre of the now famous Ikeja bomb blast in Lagos Nigeria was one notable achievement. The epicenter of the bomb blast had become a threat to lives and property in the very densely populated Ikeja area within Lagos metropolis. The clearance was achieved with about 10 percent of the least price quoted by civilian contractors when the clearing project was advertised. As Chief of Army Staff I also established the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Training Wing which has now been accredited by the United Nations as a centre for tactical pre-deployment training of units not only for Nigeria, but open to interested nations for peace support operations. The centre contributed immensely and successfully built the capacity of units deployed for peacekeeping operations to African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in Darfur, Sudan and UNMIL in Liberia. I wish to mention here that the centre is currently receiving training assistance from the United States Government.

My external field experiences saw me serving in Sierra Leone and Darfur, Sudan as Deputy Force Commander (DFC) and Force Commander (FC) respectively. As DFC with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), I worked assiduously to attain peace to the extent of personally meeting with the rebels in their enclave and locations. Through a painstaking dialogue, I introduced the â?Hot Spottâ? disarmament that helped UNAMSIL to implement one of the most successful Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme by the United Nations. In Darfur, I took over the mission at a time when there was â?no peace to keeppâ? and the mission was delicately balanced between moving towards a precarious peace and renewed escalation of the crises. I indeed took over what was left of AMIS and its built up to one of the most ambitious and challenging first African Union and United Nations peacekeeping mission. We did that in a very challenging political, logistic and environmental situation. I am happy that I handed over the mission to the incumbent FC in a more stable and confident situation as Darfur has experienced stabilized period for sometime now. The peace talks currently being hosted in Doha, Qatar is part of the process we built when I was the Chairman of the Cease Fire Commission. My services in the quest for peace in Africa are not without their challenges. On many occasions our commitment and effort was stretched to the limit. However, perseverance and resilience saw us through the murky waters of peacekeeping.

At this juncture, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, please permit me to acknowledge the immense contributions of the African Centre for Strategic Studies and its commitment to building awareness on security issues facing Africa. The problems facing Africa today such as violent conflicts, poverty, and hunger are mostly human-created problems. They can therefore be resolved through human efforts, understanding and the development of various developmental structures for which the African Centre is greatly involved. Much has been done in resolving conflicts in Africa, however there are still many challenges facing the continent. A lot of works need to be done in the area of Civil-Military Cooperation. Most African countries are barely coming out of Military Governments which is one of the reasons for disaffection and lack of confidence between the military, civil population and the various rights groups. These are all key players in any conflict resolution situation. Efforts are required to build confidence and trust between the military and the civil population. This could be done through awareness campaign and building of capacity in civil-military cooperation.

Good governance is still a challenge in most African countries. We must appreciate that a lot of progress has been made in this regard. It is very encouraging to note that most African countries are now presided over by democratic governments. However there are democratic structures that need to be strengthened. Issues like free and fair elections, ignorance and corruption are still major challenges that could truncate democracy and completely erode the gains made in the march towards good governance. I will also wish to say here that peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict but peace based on the rights and dignity of every citizen of Africa. Just peace does not include only civil and political rights but economic security and freedom from want which can be guaranteed by good governance.

I will not end my speech without thanking my wife and children for their wonderful support and understanding. They held the home front and ensure that I focus on my official challenges. Let me also thank the Federal Government and people of Nigeria for the opportunities given to me to serve in the various capacities in the Armed Forces of Nigeria. I will also like to use this medium to pay tribute to my colleagues at arms; the officers and soldiers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria whom I led for 4 fruitful years. I deployed thousands of them to distant lands in the service of peace with visible rewards. I must also mention officers and soldiers from all over the world whom I had the privilege of commanding under the African Union and the United Nations Missions auspices. Some of them paid the supreme sacrifice for the sake of peace and security in Africa. May their souls rest in perfect peace.

Thank you