Lieutenant General Erskine laid to rest

BY: Joshua Bediako Koomson
Rt Rev. Dr Daniel Sylvanus Mensah-Torto, Anglican Bishop of Accra, consecrating the body of Lt Gen. Erskine. Picture: Gabriel Ahiabor
Rt Rev. Dr Daniel Sylvanus Mensah-Torto, Anglican Bishop of Accra, consecrating the body of Lt Gen. Erskine. Picture: Gabriel Ahiabor

The remains of Lieutenant General Emmanuel Alexander Erskine (Retd) were laid to rest at the Burma Camp Military Cemetery yesterday.

That was after a state funeral at the forecourt of the State House where hundreds paid their last respects.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, and former President John Dramani Mahama were in attendance to bid farewell to the national icon who was the first Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

It was a solemn event with various tributes eulogising the former military officer of international repute and statesman for all his contributions to the development of the country and the world at large. He died at the 37 Military Hospital on May 7, 2021, aged 86.

The funeral was well attended by family members, the traditional council as well as members from the transitional authority, who were all in black attire for the service.

Draped in the national flag, the casket containing the remains of the former General was placed at the forecourt of the State House with full military honours.

With strict adherence to COVID-19 protocol, people were allowed to file past and pay their last respects.

Burial

After the burial service, the casket was carried by military pall-bearers into a waiting black Ghana Armed Forces hearse.

The procession which was led by the Ghana Armed Forces Band then headed for the Burma Camp Military Cemetery for a private burial.

Background

In 1978, Lt Gen. Erskine, one of Ghana’s celebrated military officers, was appointed the first Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which was established that year to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese government in restoring its effective authority in the area.

This was preceded by his appointment as Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in Palestine (UNTSO) on January 1, 1976 to April 1978.

On the 40th Anniversary of UNIFIL in 2018, the Ghana Armed Forces honoured Lt Gen. Erskine, who led the body till 1986, for his distinguished service.

The Chief of the Defence Staff of the day, Lt Gen Obed Boamah Akwa, said Lt Gen Erskine accomplished a lot in the troubled space of the Middle East in a time when peacekeeping in Lebanon was more dangerous.

Lt Gen. Erskine was the Chief of Army Staff between January and February 1972. He later held the same position from February 1973 to April 1974.

The late former military officer obtained his West African School Certificate in 1956 and joined the Army on March 17, 1958.

He was, however, commissioned into the Signal Corps of the Ghana Army, after a course at Sandhurst on December 15, 1960.

Lt Gen. Erskine enrolled on further advanced military courses, including two signals courses at Catterick, Britain and an associate officer’s course in the USA.

He served in various capacities with the Ghana Army — as the Commanding Officer of the Ghana Signals Regiment and later Director of Communications with the Ministry of Defence.

He later became Director for Operations and Planning at the same Ministry from 1971 to 1972.

Gen. Erskine served as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Emergency Force Two (UNEF 2) from 1974 to 1976 in Egypt.

In 1992, he contested the country’s presidential election as the candidate of the People’s Heritage Party (PHP), of which he was a founder member.

Gen. Erskine was also one of the nine members of the National Reconciliation Commission, who were appointed by President John Agyekum Kufuor in consultation with the Council of State.

The commission was to investigate human rights abuses committed during the five military regimes in Ghana.

Gen. Erskine is survived by his wife and eight children.