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Making Peace Happen: of the many challenges facing Africa, the quest for peace and security is undoubtedly one of the most pressing. And as such, the AU special session of heads of state and government held in Tripoli last August, declared 2010 as the Year of Peace and security in Africa. As Tom Mbakwe reports, halfway through the year, the campaign dubbed "Make Peace Happen" is in high gear.

In keeping with its vision for a peaceful, democratic, prosperous and united Africa, the African Union (AU) is stepping up its "Make Peace Happen" campaign by involving influential people including the AU Chairperson, Jean Ping, and the Sudanese businessman and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, to steadfastly champion its success, in the build-up to the UN international Day of Peace on 21 September 2010.

To help promote the African Year of Peace and Security, the African Union Commission has also appointed 12 advisory council members and 14 Peace Ambassadors to champion the campaign.

The 26 are prominent Africans drawn from various sectors of society: political, business, sports, arts, culture and music. They will also play a key role in the implementation of various activities leading up to and on 21 September, Peace Day.

The Advisory Council comprises Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner F.W. de Klerk, Salim A. Salim, Amara Essy, Alpha Oumar Konare, Edem Kodjo, Henri Lopes, Dr. Graca Machel, Bethuel Kiplagat, Dr. Luisa Diogo, Dr Mo Ibrahim, and Prof Wangari Maathai.

The Peace Ambassadors include: Manu Dibango, Sadok Sassi, Angelique Kidjo, Paulina Chiziane, Maria Mutola, Paul Tergat, Michael Essien, Oliver Mtukudzi, Waris Dirie, Abedi Pele, Teshaynesh Hewak Teka Legesse, Rabah Madjer, Youssou NDDour, and Salif Keita.

In a recent article for the Sunday Independent of South Africa, Mr Ping wrote:

"Clearly, the challenge of achieving peace, security and stability across the African continent is an undertaking of many years, but, nonetheless, the Year of Peace and Security in Africa offers a unique opportunity to give further impetus to the efforts aimed at ending conflicts and sustaining peace.

"It is an opportunity for African people and their leaders, as well as African institutions, in partnership with the international community, to review and strengthen current peace-building efforts, as well as to launch new initiatives for the promotion of peace and security.

"The overarching message of the Year of Peace and Security--Make Peace Happen--highlights the need for all Africans to come together and collectively take responsibility for achieving durable peace across the continent."

The Year of Peace and Security aims to give added momentum to peace and security efforts on the continent, give greater visibility to ongoing and past efforts by the AU to promote peace and security, speed up the implementation of commitments made by member states in relevant AU instruments, link official efforts to promote peace and security with the efforts being undertaken on the ground by communities and mobilise resources to support peace and security on the continent.

Positive strides

Indeed, in the past few years, Africa has witnessed a significant decline in the number of violent conflicts and important advances have been made in conflict resolution and peace-building, thanks to the collective determination and efforts of Africans, with the support of their partners.

Over the past decade, Africa has recorded remarkable economic progress, as demonstrated by its substantial real GDP growth, increase in foreign direct investment, and the upbeat performance of key sectors such as telecommunications, banking, retailing and construction. As a result, Africa is among the world's most rapidly growing economic regions.

While a number of factors account for this progress, including improved governance and management, the decline in the number of conflicts and resulting political stability have, indisputably, played a key role.

In ridding the continent of the scourge of conflict and consolidating peace where it has been restored, Africa can sustain and amplify these gains. This will make it possible for the continent to fully unlock its potential and achieve its vision of a peaceful, democratic, prosperous and united Africa. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. A number of African countries and regions continue to be trapped in the vicious cycle of conflicts and their deadly consequences. Armed conflicts continue to kill thousands of people every year, create humanitarian disasters, wipe out livelihoods and wealth creation opportunities by ordinary people.

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While proclaiming 2010 as the Year of Peace last August. African leaders stressed the fact that "no single internal factor has contributed more to the socio-economic problems of the continent than the scourge of conflicts within and between our countries. They have brought about death and human suffering, engendered hate and divided nations and families. Conflicts have forced millions of our people into becoming refugees and internally displaced persons. They have been deprived of their means of livelihood, human dignity and hope. Conflicts have gobbled up scarce resources, and undermined the ability of our countries to address the many compelling needs of our people".

With that in mind, the leaders declared their determination to "deal with, once and for ail, the scourge of conflicts and violence on our continent; acknowledge our shortcomings and errors, committing our resources and our best people, and missing no opportunity to push forward the agenda of conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and post-conflict reconstruction."

" We, as leaders, cannot simply bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans," they concluded.

And as the AU Commission chairman, Jean Ping, concluded his article for the Sunday Independent: "Peace building should not be the preserve of institutions or governments. I urge the African civil society and private sector to join hands with the AU and its member states to make peace happen in 2010 and beyond.

"Indeed, to achieve peace between nations and non-violence in our homes, communities and schools requires everyone's involvement. I challenge every African to take a step of faith and do something to support the Year of Peace and Security, for none of us is too small to make a difference ... Let 2010 mark the end of an era of conflict, and the beginning of an era of opportunity for all, in which Africans benefit from our continent's abundant potential."

(For more information on the 2010 Year of Peace and Security in Africa, visit: www.makepeacehappen.net)
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Title Annotation:2010 MAKE PEACE HAPPEN; African Union
Author:Mbakwe, Tom
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Aug 1, 2010
Words:984
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