Four decades of firsts: Remembering the legacy of MINURSO’s first woman Deputy Force Commander
By: Maya Kelly
It is with heavy hearts that we learned of the passing of former MINURSO Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier General Constance Emefa Edjeani-Afenu. After a brief illness, DFC Edjeani-Afenu passed away in her home country of Ghana.
Though Brigadier General Edjeani-Afenu — or Constance as she was known to colleagues –- is no longer with us, her legacy lives on and the impact of her work and achievements as a pioneer for women in peacekeeping will continue to inspire many.
Brigadier Edjeani-Afenu was a true trailblazer. She was the first woman Deputy Force Commander to serve with the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) from 2019–2022. As a woman who shattered many glass ceilings within her national military, the Ghana Armed Forces, before serving with UN Peacekeeping in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), Liberia (UNMIL), and Western Sahara (MINURSO), she worked successfully to promote gender inclusiveness and increase the number of women serving in MINURSO. Having firsthand experience as a Military Observer with MONUSCO (2003–2004), Constance focused relentlessly on improving the conditions of service of MINURSO’s Military Observer personnel, a legacy that she leaves behind.
Throughout her 41 years of service, Brigadier General Edjeani-Afenu rose through the ranks of her national military to become the first female Commanding Officer (1999) in the Ghana Armed Forces. In 2013, Constance became the first woman to be appointed Deputy Military Adviser (DMILAD) at the Permanent Mission of Ghana to the UN, New York until 2016. Whilst serving as DMILAD, she was promoted in March 2016 to the rank of Brigadier-General, becoming the first female to ever be promoted as a General in the Ghana Armed Forces. In 2019, Brigadier Edjeani-Afenu became the first female Deputy Force Commander to serve with MINURSO, where she served with honour and distinction until her passing.
Constance is remembered by her MINURSO colleagues as a ‘true inspiration’ with a remarkable smile and infectious laugh. She always made time to chat, to share a laugh, to encourage her colleagues and share advice, and she never passed up an opportunity to dance. She inspired and mentored generations of soldiers and officers, and will be dearly missed.
Condolences from around the world affirm Constance’s profound impact, and emphasize the great loss to the UN family and global community.
“Hers was a life of resilience and breaking barriers, a shining example of what women can do. May her soul Rest in Peace,” shares First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo.
“Her service to Ghana and the world is profound,” shares @UNinGhana, “we have lost a treasure. Our hearts out to her family, @GhArmedForces and to the people of Ghana.”
DFC Brigadier General Constance Emefa Edjeani-Afenu is survived by her husband, three children, and two grandchildren. We offer our heartfelt condolences to her friends, family, colleagues, and to the people and Government of the Republic of Ghana who have lost a treasure.