(MONROVIA, LIBERIA – Wednesday, November 16, 2016) Vice President, Dr. Joseph Nyumah Boakai on Wednesday, November 16, led an array of government officials, including the coordinator of the Cabinet, Justice Minister, Cllr. Frederick Cherue, to sign the Book of Condolence in honor of the late Head of Mission to the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), Major-General Dr. Julius Facki Oketta.
Dr. Oketta passed away in Kampala, Uganda following a heart attack on Saturday, November 5, 2016. He was 60 years old. He has since been buried.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, paying a tribute following the signing of the Book of Condolence, Vice President Boakai described the late Major General Oketta as a “hero”.
“General Oketta came to Liberia and stood with us. He helped our country fight and defeat Ebola. So we have come here to pay our respect to him by signing the Book of Condolence that the African Union Liaison Office in Monrovia has opened for him and by sending our condolence messages to the African Union family, the Government and people of Uganda and the bereaved family,” the Liberian Vice President stressed.
He added that Dr. Oketta’s death is a loss not only for the African Union (AU) alone but Liberia, too, as a member of the AU.
Continuing his special tribute, Vice President Boakai said he remembered the late Major General for standing with Liberia during the heat of the Ebola epidemic in the Mano River Union.
Major-General Oketta headed the ASEOWA Mission, which included 855 civilian and military health volunteers, who, along with other partners, battled and defeated the Ebola virus disease in the three worse affected countries.
“He was not just a great soldier, he was also a humanitarian, someone who had concern and brought pride to Africa for being a true hero for the welfare of his continent and its peoples,” the Vice President added.
Vice President Boakai informed Major-General Oketta’s family that Liberia stands and mourns with them in this difficult period of bereavement.
The Vice President was accompanied by Acting Foreign Minister, Mr. B. Elias Shoniyin, Defense Minister, Mr. Brownie Samukai, Minister of State-designate, Mr. Sylvester Grisgby, Youth and Sports Minister, Mr. Saah Charles N’tow, Presidential Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Ambassador George Wallace, Jr., and National Investment Commission Chairperson, Mrs. Etmonia D. Tarpeh.
Also making brief remarks, the Officer in Charge of the AU Liaison Office, Mr. Prosper Nii Nortey Addo, said that it was an honor for him to host Vice President Boakai who had come in to sign the Book of Condolence in honor of General Oketta.
“The General played a good role, particularly when Ebola broke out. His efforts had been recognized by the Government; so for the Vice President to make it here, is really encouraging,” he said.
Mr. Addo assured everyone that the good works of Dr. Oketta will continue to linger for a very long time as he left an indelible mark. “Thanks to him and with the support of partners, Ebola is no longer here,” he added.
The late Major-General’s mission also extended to Sierra Leone and Guinea. In that regard, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Liberia, H. E. Mr. Brima Acha Kamara, said he felt saddened to come and sign the Book of Condolence for a “very fine officer.”
In September 2014, at the height of the Ebola epidemic, Major-General Oketta was nominated to join the African Union-led humanitarian mission to address the threat of the Ebola virus to the continent. The mission, code-named ASEOWA was based in Ethiopia.
On February 11, 2015, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, honoured Major-General Dr. Julius Facki Oketta for his contributions to the fight against Ebola and awarded him the decoration of “Distinguished Service Order” during the 58th Armed Forces Day celebration in Liberia.
J. Wesley Washington
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS