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厄斯金:从走投无路到联黎部队指挥官

Editors note

In the previous column “African History in African Eyes”,we invited our African friends to tell us about the history of their nations, to provide a new perspective for understanding African history. With this column coming to an end, we would publish a new one named “African Stories from Africans”. This time, we would say goodbye to the grand narratives of nation states, and focus on the vivid stories about African heroes and legends. We hope this would help us get close to the history and life in Africa.



From dead end to UNIFIL Commander

By Edmund Smith-Asante, Reporter of Daily Graphic in Ghana

The story of Lieutenant General Erskine


●  The beginning

●  Life at risk

●  Retaliation

●  Life after UNIFIL

●  Army Commande

●  Becoming a soldier

●  Political adventure

●  Biography and early life


A young man of 23 years decided to join the army in Ghana, West  Africa, in 1958 right after his secondary school education because he could not get the financial assistance needed to continue his education at the university.

His interest in the army was whipped up after regular visits of senior military officers to his school, Fijai Secondary School in Takoradi, in the Western Region of Ghana, during which they encouraged the students to join after school.

“I was very much enticed to go into the army because I couldn’t continue my education in the university – I didn’t have the money,” the young man, now retired army General Emmanuel Alexander Erskine, said.

But that misfortune of his inability to further his education tended to inure to the benefit of the whole world 20 years later, when he became the first Force Commander chosen by the United Nations to head its Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to advance peace in the troubled Middle East region. 

March 19, 2018 was exactly 40 years since the UN Security Council unanimously passed its Resolution 425 that authorised the then Secretary-General, (SG) Dr Kurt Waldheim on March 19, 1978, to set up the Peacekeeping Mission – UNIFIL, for which Ghanaian-born Lieutenant General Erskine was made its first commander.

The mission was ultimately to stop further loss of lives, destruction of homes and property, as well as the immense suffering of the population of the region.

Serving under him were troops from Canada, Fiji, France, Ghana, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Nepal, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Senegal and Sweden among other countries.

Despite the still turbulent situation in the Middle East, it is the work done by Lt. Gen. Erskine and the multi-national forces that served under him and other commanders after him that has prevented the situation from escalating.



⬆Edmund Smith-Asante with the former UNIFIL Commander, Lt. Gen. (retired) Emmanuel Erskine


The beginning

Narrating how he was appointed the UNIFIL commander in an exclusive interview in Accra; the retired General said “That very day, I received a copy of the Resolution together with the SG’s message (cable), appointing me as the Acting Force commander and instructing me to set up the force.

“I was surprised, excited and overjoyed. I immediately dropped on the floor of my lounge in my residence located on the slopes of Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem, and in a prostrate and prayerful position, prayed.

“I thanked our very kind, gracious and merciful God and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ for giving me the very rare opportunity to serve war-torn Lebanon, and more specifically the heavily war-ravaged South with its deprived south Lebanese, the women, aged and children together with Palestinians expelled from their homes in Palestine as a result of the 1948 and 1967 wars and from Jordan in the Black September 1970 episode.

“I also prayed for increase in knowledge and to be imbued with Solomon’s wisdom to execute my functions professionally as expected by the SG in fully supporting him to execute his task to achieve the four thematic objectives demanded by Resolution 425, since the accomplishment of this mission hinged, to a large extent, on me as his representative on the ground.

“I asked for God’s protection from all dangers which were prevalent in all conflict theatres and finally, for common sense.”

Looking back with nostalgia after serving the United Nations and humanity, he recalled the very precarious situations he and his troops always found themselves in.

Life at risk

Recounting when his UN-marked plane was bombed he said; “I was coming from Beirut just outside Tyre, we were just about 300 meters over the Mediterranean when we heard a bang so I asked the pilot and co-pilot if anything has happened. When we got to Naqoura after just three minutes flight and the ground assistants came to open the door (this was where I got frightened), there was no door. Whatever they fired had blown the door and the door fell straight down into the sea,” he said, adding that if the door had touched the propellers the plane would have crashed into the sea.

He said there was another time when after a visit to the Fijian troops at Naqoura shots were fired at the seat of the plane. He was also ruffed up resulting in his ranks falling off; when eight Norwegian soldiers had been abducted from their duty post and he went for a meeting with the abductors at a location in Nazareth to have them released.

Looking back to those encounters he said; “I enjoyed UNIFIL; I loved it but I wouldn’t like to go back again because my sitting here is by the grace of God. My room was bombed. I happened at that time not to be there. I have been manhandled, my aircraft has been shot. I thank God that when I was appointed I went down to ask Him for protection because I am sitting down here today by His grace but I enjoyed it.”

Lt. Gen. Erskine was described as a “one man battalion” because he was the only Ghanaian in the force when UNIFIL was born.

Retaliation

He explained that the war in the Middle East became intense after an Israeli bus carrying Israeli citizens and heading towards Tel Aviv in Israel was attacked near the Israeli coastal town of Hertzliya in the early hours of March 11, 1978, which resulted in the death of about 30 Israelis, and attracted a retaliatory attack on South Lebanon on March 15 the same year.

Palestinians resident in South Lebanon were the immediate suspects of the heinous, murderous attack, he said, adding that “the Israelis were expected to respond to this act of extreme brutality and provocation.”

He continued that “the much-awaited retaliation code-named ‘Operation Litani,’ commenced with air strikes shelling from mortars and other artillery pieces and finally complemented by ground assault troops supported by other heavy weapons. A large number of the villages and houses of the South Lebanese was reduced to rubble and the farms infested with unexploded and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) mostly bombs and land mines, thereby depriving the local Lebanese of their means of livelihood since they could not go to farm. Water pumps and electric poles had equally been destroyed by the constant shelling from mortars, artillery pieces and airstrikes.”

Lt. Gen. Erskine disclosed that UNIFIL suffered lots of casualties because he and his troops had to contend with the several landmines that had been planted all around as a result of the disagreement and unending war between the Israelis and Palestinians, and also because the Lebanese who had become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their own country were returning in their numbers because of the presence of the troops and needed to farm for food.

Life after UNIFIL

The General completed his work at UNIFIL and he was posted back to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) and to his former position as the Chief of Staff in February 1981. There he was given another job as the Secretary General’s Representative for peacekeeping operations in the Middle East and he retired in 1986.

“I came back home and I was tired. Mentally and physically tired,” he said. He, however, got involved with some international organisations to share his experiences on conflict management. He worked with organisations such as former Nigerian President Obansanjo’s African Leadership Forum, the military staff colleges in Accra, Ghana and Kaduna, Nigeria; the International Peace Academy (IPA), New York and was involved in the Mozambique conflict resolution in the early 1990s.     

Army Commander

Before his appointment as the UNIFIL Force Commander Lt. Gen. Erskine was the Ghana Army Commander.

He was before then the Director General, Operations and Planning of the Ghana Army and was made the Commander and a member of the Supreme Military Council when General Acheampong staged a military coup d’état in 1972.

Lt. Gen. Erskine left for the war college – the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) for a year and returned to his position as the Army Commander in 1973.

He left the army command in 1974 when the UN requested that a Ghanaian fill the position of Chief of Staff for the United Nations Emergency Force Two (UNEF 2) established after September 1976 following the Yom Kippur War of October 6, 1973.

There, he worked under Lt. Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo as the Chief of Staff and second in command. He was later posted from UNEF to Jerusalem to head the UNTSO, as the Chief of Staff (Commander) and then became the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in 1981.

The Yom Kippur war also known as the Ramadan War or October War or the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, was fought by a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel from October 6 to 25, 1973.

Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a coordinated attack against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar hoping to win back territory lost to Israel during the third Arab-Israeli war, in 1967.

Becoming a soldier

Lt. Gen. Erskine joined the army in March 1958 with intake 10 of the Regular Officers Special Training School (ROST 10), the predecessor to the Ghana Military Academy (GMA) with an interesting mix of colleagues who included General Acheampong who made him Army Commander and former Nigerian President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, with whom still has a very good relationship.

After training in Ghana for six months he proceeded to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst (RMAS) in January 1959, finished and was commissioned in December 1960 after a two-year course.

Gen. Erskine said he was commissioned into the Signals Regiment in 1961, after doing his young officers course in communications. “My coming back coincided with the ‘Ghananisation’ of the Ghana Armed Forces, which means the British leaving and Ghanaians taking over,” he said.

He subsequently became the military secretary working under five Generals who were all Chiefs of Defense Staff (CDS) – Kotoka, Ankrah, Ocran, Otoo who later became Air Marshall Otoo and Addo.   

Political adventure

Describing how he got into politics, Lt. Gen. Erskine said in the early 1990s he was visited by some elders of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) who asked him to join the party.

He obliged and joined in 1992 but “unfortunately the CPP had been split and I took part of it. We called ourselves the People’s Heritage Party (PHP) and it was interesting. The end result is that I didn’t do well.

 “So the end of 1992 was the end to my political life but I learnt. One important thing I learnt in politics is the human being. It was a great lesson,” he stated.

In 1992 he contested the elections with four other candidates, former President Jerry John Rawlings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and later the – Progressive Alliance Party, Albert Adu Boahen, New Patriotic Party (NPP), Kwabena Darko, National Independence Party (NIP) and Dr Hilla Limann, the People’s National Convention (PNC). 

According to the retired General, he went back to lecturing and being part of conflict issues until 1999 when he had an invitation from the UN headquarters on contract to one of its new units opened to share lessons from conflicts and past peacekeeping experiences so that newly appointed force commanders could stop by and get some briefing because there were no publications to learn from at the time. He worked there till 2001 when he retired fully from the UN.
But just after a year in 2002 he was called back from rest and given a national assignment to serve on the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) through an invitation from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who was then the Foreign Affairs Minister.

Describing his serving on the NRC as “a very very interesting assignment in my life” he said he served until 2004, “then I was tired. I was truly tired and ever since I have been home.”

Biography and early life

Lt. Gen Erskine, who hails from Winneba (father) and Ekumfi (mother) in the Central Region of Ghana has a wife, Rose, a retired nurse/midwife and eight children (four men and four women) who sometimes visited him when he served as the UNIFIL commander in Lebanon.

The children, some of whom are in the Bahamas, Canada, London, Ghana and Washington include a dental surgeon, a lawyer, a nurse and a media practitioner Anita Erskine. 

A staunch Anglican born on January 19, 1935, he says the military has been good and he had no regrets serving in the Ghana Armed Forces and the UN.




中文版:


● 编者按

在之前“非洲人写非洲史”栏目里,我们邀请非洲朋友为我们展现他们自己国家的历史发展进程,为读者了解非洲历史提供了新的素材和视角。如今,这一栏目升级改进,我们将从本期杂志开始推出全新的栏目——“非洲故事会”。这次我们将不仅展现民族国家历史的宏大叙事,还会更多邀请非洲朋友给我们讲述他们眼中的非洲英雄、历史传说、风土人情等,带我们走进他们的历史与生活。



谁能想到,一位无钱上学、走投无路的加纳年轻人,在20年后,为世界和平做出了自己的特殊贡献


文I 埃德蒙·史密斯 – 阿桑蒂  加纳《每日写真报》记者    翻译|邓哲



● 成为一名士兵

● 陆军司令

● 中东局势的恶化

● 数次遇险

联黎部队之后的生活

● 从政经历


1958年,一名23岁的年轻人因为没钱前往大学深造,决定在中学毕业后加入加纳军队。

此前,高级军官定期拜访他的母校——加纳西部塔科拉迪的Fijai中学,并鼓励学生们毕业后加入军队。正是这段经历激起了他对军队的兴趣。

这位年轻人正是已退休的陆军将军伊曼纽尔·亚历山大·厄斯金。他在采访中说,“我非常想入伍,因为我没钱在大学继续我的学业。”

但在20年后回望过去,他个人的不幸反而造福了全世界。1978年3月19日,联合国安理会一致通过425号决议,授权当时的秘书长库尔特·瓦尔德海姆成立维和部队——联合国驻黎巴嫩临时部队(联黎部队),以在战乱的中东地区保障和平。埃斯金中将被选为部队第一任指挥官。维和部队最终目的是要阻止进一步的人员伤亡、住房和财产损失,以及缓解这一地区人民的巨大痛苦。

厄斯金中将麾下的维和士兵来自加拿大、斐济、法国、加纳、伊朗、爱尔兰、意大利、尼泊尔、荷兰、尼日利亚、挪威、塞内加尔和瑞典等多个国家。

尽管中东局势依然动荡不安,但厄斯金中将和他的继任者们及其指挥的维和部队阻止了局势的恶化。

成为一名士兵

厄斯金中将于1958年3月入伍,是加纳军事学院(GMA)前身——常务官员特殊训练学校(ROST 10)的10人之一。他的同学包括阿昌庞将上将和前尼日利亚总统奥巴桑乔将军,厄斯金中将至今还与他们保持着良好关系。

在加纳训练六个月后,他于1959年1月前往桑德赫斯特皇家军事学院(RMAS),并于1960年12月完成两年课程后得到分配。

厄斯金将军说,在年轻军官通信课程结束后,他于1961年进入信号团。“我回来的时候恰逢加纳武装部队的‘加纳化’,这意味着英国人的离开和加纳人的掌权。”他说。

随后,他成为军事秘书,先后为五位国防参谋长(CDS)服务,他们是科托卡、安克拉、奥克兰、后来成为了空军司令的奥库,还有阿多。


⬆退休时期的伊曼纽尔·亚历山大·厄斯金将军


陆军司令

在被任命为联黎部队司令之前,厄斯金中将是加纳军队指挥官。

更早之前他担任了加纳军队行动和规划局局长,并在1972年阿昌庞上将发动军事政变后,出任军队司令和最高军事委员会成员。

厄斯金中将前往战争学院——国家国防研究学院(RCDS)呆了一年,并于1973年重新担任陆军司令。

1973年10月6日,赎罪日战争(又被称为斋月战争、十月战争或者1973年阿以战争)爆发。埃及和叙利亚军队领导的阿拉伯军队和以色列军队。埃及和叙利亚军队在犹太历法上最神圣的赎罪日,一起向以色列发动进攻,希望夺回在1967年第三次阿以战争期间失去的领土。

赎罪日战争后,联合国第二紧急部队(UNEF 2)成立,并要求一名加纳人担任参谋长,于是在1974年厄斯金中将离开了陆军司令一职。

在UNEF 2,他曾在中将Ensio Siilasvuo手下担任参谋长和副司令。后来他被从紧急部队派往耶路撒冷担任停战监督组织负责人,担任参谋长(指挥官),并于1981年成为秘书长特别代表(SRSG)。

中东局势的恶化

1978年3月11日,一辆满载着以色列乘客、前往特拉维夫的公交车在以色列海滨城市赫兹里亚附近遇袭,导致约有30名以色列人死亡,3月15日,以色列开始在黎巴嫩南部开始报复性袭击,他说,这件事恶化了中东局势。

居住在黎巴嫩南部的巴勒斯坦人是这场凶残袭击的直接嫌疑人,他说,“以色列人希望对这种极端残暴和挑衅行为作出回应。”

他继续说,“以色列的报复行为‘利塔尼行动’以空中火力为开始,而后由有重型武器支援的地面突击部队完成进攻。大量南黎巴嫩人的村庄和房屋化为废墟,农田里出现大量未爆炸和简易爆炸装置,其中大多都是炸弹和地雷,使得当地农民无法以此为生。水泵和电线杆在迫击炮、火炮和空袭的不断袭击下同样遭到破坏。”

厄斯金中将透露说,联黎部队在清理地雷时遭受了大量伤亡。由于双方无休止战争,地雷到处都是,而流离失所的黎巴嫩人因为联黎部队的出现和对食物的需求,不断返回原来的家乡。

维和生涯的开始

厄尔金斯将军在阿克拉接受独家采访时说,“那天我收到了决议副本和秘书长的电报,说要任命我为代理部队指挥官,并指示我组建部队。”

“我感到既惊讶,又兴奋,还喜出望外。当时我住在东耶路撒冷斯科普斯山上的一处住所,我立即跪在地板上,以最虔诚的姿态祈祷。”

“我感谢上帝,感谢他给予我这个难得的机会,帮助战火纷飞的黎巴嫩,不过更确切来说,是遭受战争蹂躏的南部地区,以及当地贫困的老弱妇幼,还有因1948年和1967年战争、因1970年约旦黑九月事件中而逃到这里的巴勒斯坦人。

“我还祈求更多的知识,并且希望所罗门的智慧,以专业地完成任务,达到安理会秘书长的预期,支持实现第425号决议要求的四大目标。在很大程度上,完成这项使命的任务落在了秘书长实地代表,也就是我的肩上。”

“我还祈求免遭危险,最终还祈求知道如何应对各类状况。”

在完场为联合国和人类的服务工作后,他带着怀旧的心情,回忆起他和他的部队所处的一个个险境。


数次遇险

将军首先回忆起他的联合国飞机遇袭事件。他说,“当时飞机从贝鲁特起飞,到达了苏尔郊外,距地中海仅300米。当我们听到了一声巨响时,我立刻询问驾驶员和副驾驶发生了什么。三分钟后,飞机抵达纳古拉,地勤过来开门,结果发现门已经不见了,这可把我吓坏了。不管他们发射了什么,这东西直接把机舱门击落到海里。”他还补充说,当时门一旦碰上了螺旋桨,整个飞机都可能直接坠海。

他还记得有一次在纳古拉视察完斐济部队后,飞机座位遭到枪击。他还曾因遭人排挤而导致军衔下降;还有一次八名挪威士兵在岗位上遭到绑架,他前往拿撒勒的一处地方与绑架者会面,挪威士兵成功获释。

回顾种种遭遇,他说“我很喜欢联黎部队,我爱它,但我也不想再回去了,因为现在我能坐在全是上帝的恩典。我的房间曾经被炸毁,所幸那时我正好不在房间里;我遭人排挤,我的飞机中弹。我感谢上帝,在我得知任命时,我祈求他的保护,得以幸存至今。”

由于厄斯金中将是是联黎部队诞生时唯一的加纳人,因此他常被称为“一人营”。

联黎部队之后的生活

厄斯金中将结束联黎部队的任务后,于1981年2月返回联合国停战监督组织(UNTSO)中,担任原先的参谋长职位。在那里,他又被任命为联合国秘书长中东维和行动代表,并于1986年退休。
“我回到家里时已身心俱疲。”他说,但他还是参与了一些国际组织的工作,在工作中,他分享了在冲突管理方面的经验。例如,他曾参与过与尼日利亚前总统奥巴桑乔的非洲领导人论坛、尼日利亚卡杜纳和加纳阿克拉的军事院校、纽约国际和平学院(IPA),并参与了90年代初莫桑比克冲突的调解工作。


从政经历

说到如何投身政治,埃尔斯金中将说在20世纪90年代初,大会人民党(CPP)的元老来拜访他,希望他加入大会人民党。

他最终在1992年入党,但“不幸的是,CPP已经分裂,我参与了这一进程。我们自称人民遗产党(PHP),这很有趣,但最后我做得并不好。

 “所以1992年底是我政治生涯的终点,但我学到了东西。其中我在政治中学到的重要一点就是人性,这是很重要的一课。”他说。

1992年,他与另外四位候选人竞选,其中包括全国民主大会党(NDC)前主席以及后来进步联盟党的杰里·约翰·罗林斯、新爱国党(NPP)的阿尔伯特·阿杜·博亨、国家独立党(NIP)的夸比纳·达莫和人民全国大会党(PNC)的希拉·李曼博士。

根据中将的说法,他后来回到讲坛,继续关注冲突问题。直到1999年,他应联合国总部邀请,为新单位分享冲突中学到的教训和维和的经验,以便新任命部队指挥官能够获得了解更多情况,因为当时没有任何出版物可供学习。他在那里工作到2001年,直到从联合国完全退休。
但仅仅在一年后的2002年,他在现任总统、时任外交部长纳纳·阿库福-阿多的邀请下,被任命参与全国和解委员会(NRC)。

他说在NRC的经历“我生命中非常非常有趣的任务”,他一直服务到2004年,“那时我累了,真的很累了,之后便一直退休在家。”

不过,这位在1935年1月19日出生的坚定圣公会教徒说,他从没对自己的戎马生涯感到后悔。(编辑:邓哲远)