Liberia has joined the Republic of Uganda and the African Union (AU) to mourn the death of the former Head of Mission to the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), Major-General Dr. Julius Facki Oketta.
Dr. Oketta passed away in Kampala, Uganda following a heart attack on Saturday, November 5. He was 60 years old. During the height of the Ebola epidemic in the Mano River Union, Major-General Oketta headed the ASEOWA Mission, which included 855 civilian and military health volunteers, who battled the fight against Ebola in the subregion. According to a Foreign Ministry release, Major-General Oketta, being a very disciplined soldier, led the successful defeat of Ebola without the AU losing a single soldier (health volunteer) in 2014. On February 11, 2015, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, honoured him for his contributions to the fight against Ebola and awarded him the decoration of “Distinguished Service Order” during the 58th Armed Forces Day celebration in Liberia. In September 2014, at the height of the Ebola epidemic, Major-General Oketta was nominated to join the African Union-led humanitarian mission to address the threat of the Ebola virus to the continent. The mission, code-named ASEOWA, was based in Ethiopia. During his stay in Liberia, along with his team, among other activities, ASEOWA supported three public schools, including William V. S. Tubman High School, Monrovia Demonstration Public School, both in Montserrado County; and the Government High School in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. At Tubman High, he donated five giant-sized water tanks to ease the long queue that students stood in for hours just to wash their hands before entering and leaving classes. At the Demonstration Public School, ASEOWA donated two of the same water tanks and he along with his team of health experts, taught the kids how to wash their hands in order to stop the transmission of the virus. While closing the ASEOWA mission on the margin of the AU Summit in January 2016, the AU Chairperson, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, said Africa remained truly indebted to Gen. Oketta, and was pleased that the AU had an opportunity to recognize his leadership, and appreciate his dedicated, committed and selfless services to the continent and to humanity. Major General Oketta led the Regional Reserve Forces Command when the Uganda People's Defense Force helped in combating the Ebola epidemic in Northern Uganda. He was the Director of the National Emergency Coordination and Operations Center (NECOC) in the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda and had been seconded to the African Union-led humanitarian mission. Until his death last week, Major General Julius Oketta was the deputy coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation. He held a Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration and attended Senior Command and Staff College (SCSC). Dr. Oketta was a Member of the Parliament of Uganda and served as a Member of the Advisory Board of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF). He also served as the Chief of Logistics and Engineering for the Ugandan Army. He had many years of experience in the field of civil-military humanitarian response. The late Major-General Oketta will be laid to rest on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 in Katikati, Uganda. The Liberian Government regrets his passing and prays that the Almighty will console the bereaved family and the Ugandan Government.