Let there be light in Africa

Dear Colleagues:

"In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate.
The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness and
the power of God was moving over the water.  Then God commanded, "Let there
be light" - and light appeared.

God was pleased with what He saw.  Then He separated the light from darkness
and he named the light "Day" and the darkness "Night". Everything passed and
morning came. (Genesis 1: 1 - 5)

In our letter of support for the Hague Appeal for Peace dated December 3rd,
1998, we referred to the project as a mascot that will put an end to all
human sufferings - both natural and self-inflicted.  We opined further that:
"No wonder governments, particularly in developing countries, over the past
two decades have been enthusiastically sensitizing and pinning the hopes of
their populace on social welfare package like health, education, housing
etc. which they make them understand would be at their easy reach by the
year 2000.

"Apparently little or no attention is paid to "peace for all by the year
2000" therefore reasons for the turmoil, bloody conflicts, genocide,
poverty, famine, socio-political degradation and global insecurity cannot be
far to seek.

To fashion out a new pacific direction for the new millennium over 600 civil
societies of diverse persuasions embracing over 50,000 people from all walks
of life met from May 11 - 15, 1999 under the aegis of the Hague Agenda for
Peace. They eventually came out with a 10 point agenda that was presented to
the United Nations through its Secretary-General, Kofi Anan. The points in
that agenda are that

1. Every parliament should adopt a resolution prohibiting their government
from going to war, like the Japanese article no. 9.
2. All states should accept compulsory jurisdiction of the International
Criminal Court of Justice.
3. Every government should ratify the International Criminal Court and
implement the land mines treaty.
4. All states should integrate the New Diplomacy which is the partnership of
governments, international organizations and civil society.
5. The world cannot be bystanders to humanitarian crises; every creative
diplomatic means must be exhausted before resorting to force, then under the
United Nations authority.
6. Negotiations for a Convention Eliminating Nuclear Weapons should begin
7. The trade in small arms should be severely restricted.
8. Economic rights must be taken as seriously as civil rights.
9. Peace Education should be compulsory in every school of the world.
10. The plan for the global action to prevent war should become the basis
for a peaceful world order.

In retrospect, Africa could not be said to have performed so well owing to
some inevitable underlying factors as influenced by uncontrolled flow of
arms and light weapons that fuelled various crises in the continent: about
25 million of its siblings were on the death-row no thanks to the HIV.  The
number could have been less had our governments been serious with vigorous
information and educational campaign in that direction.

In the course of the year too, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the
United Nations made the world aware of the fact that about 28 million
Africans faced inevitable starvation because of the ubiquitous civil
conflicts. For several decades, the Sudanese have been on each other's
throat on the basis of resistance to the Arab dominated northern hegemony
that allegedly imposed the religion of Islam, racism and slavery on the rest
of the country. About three million people in that country are still facing
a very serious starvation situation.

Coming to this sub-region, Liberia is playing a hide and seek game of civil
war from the rebels and is also on the brink of sanctions from the
international community that accuses it of supplying arms to dissidents in
Sierra-Leone in exchange for blood diamonds. Many will inevitably die in
that country because of the imminent civil war.

As far as Sierra-Leone is concerned, the elites seem not to be working
conscientiously for the restoration of peace and social integration since
their president continues to rely on other countries to suppress the ever
raging insurrection. The country continues to face a phenomenon that appears
to be yielding any good fruit while the seemingly invincible Revolutionary
United Front rebels continue to kill and maim hapless civilians.  It is
unfortunate that Guinea-Conakry shares a border with Liberia and
Sierra-Leone as well as a spill-over of the crisis in these countries.  Just
some few days ago, hundreds of Guineans were sent to their early graves in a
border clash following rebel attacks while the people in that area will have
no choice but to cope with starvation and more deaths.

Notwithstanding a central government after a decade of anarchy, Somalia is
still at war  when the gunmen were on the pursuit of the Yemenis while in
Djibouti the police turned their weapons on both the government and the
people because of the sack of their chief.

It is quite unfortunate that despite the involvement of the international
community and local efforts, lucifer seems to have shifted its base of
Armageddon Utopia to Rwanda, the Congo and Algeria where all peace
agreements have always been as good as the papers on which they are signed.
Last month of Ramaddan (fasting) alone, about 300 people were murdered in
the state Islamic Fundamentalists battle while in all several thousands have
been killed in cold blood since the beginning of the madness about eight
years ago.

Countries like Togo, Gambia and Bourkina Faso are witnessing a peace of the
grave yard because of their being led by professional military coup plotters
who have to keep the people under the jackboots and suppress voices of
dissent at all cost. In these countries fundamental human rights have no
meaning since they can be freely abused by the authorities. One should
fervently hope and pray for the people to truly witness a government of the
people for the people and by the people which is now the only accepted mode
of governance worldwide.

In spite of these inconsequential developments, the greatest problem for us
in Africa today and for some years to come is the unrestricted flow of small
arms and light weapons which fuel all the civil conflicts. Apparently, over
three hundred merchants of death - manufacturers of these weapons spread
across more than 70 countries in the northern hemisphere and have
clandenstinely exported more than 100 million of such weapons into this
continent.  What a renewed culture of insecurity, insurrection, and wanton
destruction of lives and property. There is no gainsaying the fact that the
new year will be characterized by the forces that nearly turned the
continent a hell of a place in the year that just eclipsed.

As rightly opined by the initiators of the Hague Appeal for Peace: "The
demand for civilian peace-builders, be they election monitors, human rights
workers or general observers, is growing fast, the pool from which such
specially trained civilians can be drawn is not. There is a strong need to
further promote the specialized training of civilian women and men in the
techniques of conflict resolution, mediation, negotiation etc. and to
promote their deployment in conflict areas in order to carry out
peace-building tasks.  The long-term aim should be the development of an
international body of specially trained "civilian peace professionals" that
can be called upon to intervene in conflict areas at short notice." Thank
goodness a Global Nonviolent Peace Force is in the making.

"According to the words of the UNESCO's constitution: Since wars begin in
the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must
be constructed." What a good food-for-thought for us all in the peace
organizations to start with as this new year begins in earnest.

Because many hands make lighter work, it is hoped that we shall all pool our
resources in order to combat the scourge of war, ignorance and wants in the
midst of our grassroots populace. This could be by means of joint projects,
training workshops, colloquia seminars etc. as some of us have been doing
already. You can, of course, count on us whenever you want this to happen.

This is wishing you all the best you wish your individual organizations and
yourself in 2001 and beyond.

Yours very sincerely,
Ade. Adenekan.
Executive Director.
Pan-African Reconciliation Council &
African Centre for Peace Education and Training,
P.O.Box 9354 Marina,
Lagos City 101221,

Tel: (234-1)7590270  Fax: +1-208-379-9324
Web pager: www.discompaging.com (no.1118366)
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