The Africa Center for Strategic Studies presented its annual “Visionary Award: Achievement in Peace and Security” to retired Nigerian General Martin Luther Agwai during an award ceremony and dinner held in his honor June 23, 2010, at its Senior Leaders Seminar in Lisbon, Portugal.
Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.) , Africa Center Director, presented the award to General Agwai before an audience of more than 100 senior-level military officers and civilian officials from Africa, the U.S., and Europe, as well as representatives from security-related international and regional organizations, who are attending the seminar. The Africa Center, in partnership with the Portuguese Ministry of National Defense, is conducting the Senior Leaders Seminar June 13-25. Participants are reviewing and analyzing the evolving African security environment and discussing strategies for addressing challenges and enhancing Africa’s security.
Ambassador Bellamy, stressing that General Agwai deserved this year’s Visionary Award because of his long and distinguished military career and his dedication to promoting peace and stability in Africa, said, “I think it can be safely said that wherever General Agwai went in the course of his long career as a professional soldier, both in Nigeria and in the broad cause of peacemaking across Africa, he generated positive change.”
In his prepared remarks, General Agwai noted his humble origins: “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 enlarged 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.”
Following his commissioning in 1972 and before retiring from the Nigerian Armed Forces in December 2009, General Agwai held several staff and command positions in Nigeria and abroad, culminating in his promotion to four-star rank and appointment as Chief of Defense Staff. During this time, General Agwai also served as Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations (UN) Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Deputy Military Adviser at the UN in New York, N.Y., Force Commander of the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan (AMIS), and Force Commander of the AU/UN Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
Noting the precarious nature of some of the missions he led, General Agwai said: “In Darfur, I took over the mission at a time when there was ‘no peace to keep’ and the mission was delicately balanced between moving towards a precarious peace and renewed escalation of the crisis. I indeed took over what was left of AMIS and it built up to one of the most ambitious and challenging first African Union and United Nations peacekeeping missions.
“We did that in a very challenging political, logistical, and environmental situation,” General Agwai continued. “I am happy that I handed over the mission to the incumbent commander in a more stable and confident situation as Darfur has experienced a stabilized period for some time now. The peace talks currently being hosted in Doha, Qatar, are 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 were stretched to the limit. However, perseverance and resilience saw us through the murky waters of peacekeeping.”
The Africa Center selects an individual each year to receive the “Visionary Award: Achievement in Peace and Security” whose accomplishments have promoted a positive record of achievement regarding African security issues.
The 2009 Visionary Award was presented to John Githongo, former journalist, Kenyan Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics, and staunch advocate of clean and accountable government. General Lamine Cissé of Senegal was the 2008 recipient of the Visionary Award.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, located on the campus of National Defense University at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C., is one of five U.S. Department of Defense regional centers that provide strategic-level education to international civilian and military personnel through a combination of multi-week courses, short-term conferences, seminars and workshops, and outreach.