For the past two years, Nigeria’s General Martin Luther Agwai has been the Force Commander of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). In September UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced that Agwai would be succeeded as UNAMID Force Commander by Lt-General Patrick Nyamvumba of Rwanda.
Nyamvumba’s appointment might cause a storm with Nigerian officers on the UNAMID mission. Nyamvumba trained at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and is now commanding Nigerian officers who enlisted before him and who have been in service far longer than him. Surprising that the United Nations made such a botch and did not do its homework on this. Even more surprising given that the UN’s Military Adviser for Peacekeeping Operations is the Nigerian officer Lt-General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor.
In seniority terms, Nyanvumba is far junior to his predecessor. Agwai was already a Colonel when Nyamvumba was still a cadet training at the NDA!
The issue of seniority is a very pertinent issue and has an angry precedent. During the early stages of ECOMOG, a rancorous situation erupted when the senior Nigerian officers refused to work under the Guinean deputy force commander, Lt-Col Lamin Mangasouba. General Sani Abacha (then the Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff) sent a letter to the Ghanaian force commander General Quianoo, ordering all Nigerian officers above the rank of Major to immediately return to Nigeria (including the Chief of Staff Brigadier Cyril Iweze). Even when Guinea promoted Mangasouba to full Colonel, the Nigerian officers still refused to serve under him.
Here is a video showing the handover ceremony from Agwai to Nyamvumba.