UNMISS Police Commissioner attends medal ceremony for nine outstanding Liberian police officers to UNMISS

UNMISS Police Commissioner attends medal ceremony for nine outstanding Liberian police officers to UNMISS

“I recall the civil war in Liberia vividly,” says Elfreda Dennice Stewart, a United Nations Police (UNPOL) officer serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

“My parents managed—with many sacrifices on their part—to put me through high school during a time of great turmoil in my country, following which I started doing a number of jobs to help out financially.”

Elfreda braided hair and taught younger kids in her village, frequently arriving home after midnight out of fear of being raped at a period when sexual assault was prevalent in Liberia.

Rachel Briggs, another UNPOL officer from Liberia deployed to the world’s youngest country, has a similar story. “I had so many dreams but the war in my country shattered them. I was separated from my mother in 1990 and till today, I don’t know if she is dead or alive. I continue searching for her, but my life has moved on,” she reveals.

For UNPOL officer Alfreda Tozay, memories of people being killed, destroyed properties and extreme hunger stand out in. “Liberia, when I was growing up, was an endless saga of horrors. My parents didn’t have enough food for us, and I would go to the bush, make charcoal to sell on the streets. I would sell bread on the roadside. But still, there was never enough to eat,” she recounts.

However, once the former United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was sent there in September 2003, their lives were radically changed. Following the second Liberian civil war, the UN was given the task of keeping an eye on the ceasefire agreement.

However, the Blue Helmets on the ground did more than just mediate a difficult peace for the troubled nation; they were a glimmer of hope for the Liberians, especially the women, to rise up and take part in creating a better future.

Some of the first women to join the Liberian National Police were Alfreda, Elfreda, and Rachel who enrolled in UNMIL’s police training programme.

These extraordinary women are currently serving in UN peacekeeping as part of the first-ever deployment of UNPOL officers from Liberia.

All three of them are stationed in South Sudan, and they all have a special place in their hearts for Bor in the state of Jonglei.

“When I came to Bor and started patrolling among communities, I knew exactly what they are going through because I and all the Liberian people have suffered the same,” says Elfreda. “This made me uniquely positioned to form a bond with the South Sudanese people and calm any tensions. When they hear my stories, they feel like they have found a sister. I always tell them—look where Liberia was and look how peaceful we are now. If we can do it, so can you.”

For Rachel, empathizing with the South Sudanese communities she serves has been, at once, harrowing and rewarding. “After my first patrol in Bor, I returned to my accommodation in the mission and cried. It was like watching history repeat itself in South Sudan. But I knew I could make a difference and bring hope to communities living here. I tell them about my childhood, and I keep emphasizing a single point—forget the past and join together to build a better future for your children,” she states passionately.

“Our experience of a 14-year civil war and the impact that UN peacekeepers had is real and tangible for the people we are on the ground to serve,” adds Alfreda. “We benefited so much from peacekeepers, and it is our honour to now serve in this young nation under the iconic blue flag.”

Nine UNPOL officers from Liberia, including Elfreda, Rachel, and Alfreda, recently earned the prestigious UN medal for their contributions to the cause of establishing a stable peace in South Sudan.

“Being shortlisted for UNMISS was a dream come true and everyday as we enhance capacities of our local counterparts in the South Sudan Police Service, we ask them to look at us as an example of what a country and its women can achieve, with help from UN Peacekeeping,” continues Rachel with a smile.

“We learnt a lot from UNMIL peacekeepers. Now, as UNMISS peacekeepers, it is our time to give back to UN Peacekeeping and to South Sudan,” says Elfreda in conclusion.

UNMISS Police Commissioner Christine Fossen, Deputy Special Representative as well as Resident Coordinator for South Sudan Sara Beysolow Nyanti, who is also from Liberia, attended the historic medal ceremony for these nine exceptional Liberian police officers to UNMISS.

»UNMISS Police Commissioner attends medal ceremony for nine outstanding Liberian police officers to UNMISS«

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