Current and former African Heads of State, UN officials and leading Christian and Muslim clerics addressed critical security issues and development proposals for Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa in a landmark peace conference in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on November 10, 2013.
The Global Peace Leadership Conference, “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Building Sustainable Peace for a Prosperous Future,” convened in a climate of conflict in Nigeria and neighboring states. From the Niger Delta to the Horn of Africa, much of Central Africa has been inflamed by insurgency, ethnic conflict, and lawlessness.
In Northern Nigeria, the extremist group Boko Haram has killed thousands of civilians, both Christian and Muslim, since launching an uprising in 2009. Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states in May 2013, while human rights organizations have sharply criticized the military crackdown.
With a population of 170 million, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and is almost equally split between Christian and Muslim.
“Nigeria shares your vision of engaging major national, regional, and global interfaith partners with a common commitment to cherished universal principles and values. I enjoin all men and women of good will to join hands in the global effort towards achieving a world where we are all one family under God.”
In an address by Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, delivered by Venerable Onwuzurumba, Chaplain of the Aso Rock Villa, the President told the assembly, “The theme of this conference, One Family under God, is not only apt but could not have come at a more auspicious time, when many parts of the global community have come under the threat of sectarian violence, oftentimes waged in the name of God by extremist elements.
“Our dear country of Nigeria has recently come under the attack of this vicious virus,” the President said. “Your focus on youth is therefore noteworthy considering that the foot soldiers of this destructive extremism are usually recruited from among the world’s teeming youth population.
Officially calling the conference to order, the President declared, “The Government and People of Nigeria identify with you on this noble calling and commend the promoters for their efforts toward the promotion of peace in our world.”
One of Africa’s foremost nationalists, Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia (1964-1991), told the participants that the challenges of building sustainable peace leadership is not restricted to Africa alone, but extend to the rest of the world. The senior statesman emphasized the need for the participation of everybody, including religious institutions, to collectively support and play their parts in sustaining peace. “Love and Peace go together,” he said. “We work for peace when we love our neighbors as ourselves.” President Kaunda’s message was delivered by his daughter, Cheswa Kaunda Silwizya.
In a keynote address, Global Peace Foundation Chairman Dr. Hyun Jin P. Moon expressed hope about Nigerian, and African, political and social development. “The era of military strongmen, coup d’etats and civil unrest seems to be in the decline,” he said. “But what’s even more promising is the possibility of stability, peace and prosperity through the rise of constitutional democratic regimes, a process that is engaging more and more Africans in actively shaping the futures of their nations and the continent.”
Calling Nigerians a spiritual people with “a tradition of cooperation between the faiths that could offer a lesson to the world,” the GPF chairman emphasized the importance of moral and innovative leadership as Africans take responsibility for shaping their own destiny.
Dr. Moon cited the compelling power of moral authority in the lives Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela and said moral leadership is “more precious for the future of a nation than gold, diamonds, or oil. It is guided by a common vision that reflects the most fundamental human aspirations, conforms to the universal spiritual principles that govern human life, and is expressed in shared moral values that can ultimately form a global ethic.”
Voices of peace
Other messages were presented by representatives the Sultan of Sokoto and Chairman of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affiairs in Nigeria; Cardinal Archbishop John Cardinal Onaiyekan; Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria; and H.E. Desire Ouedraogo, President of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission.
The Sultan of Sokoto, represented by Alhaji Ibrahim Jega, said that the issue of leadership involves every sector of the society from the public sector to the family unit. He said that good governance, focused and committed leadership based on trust, sincerity of purpose, and discharging of responsibility entrusted to leadership were imperative for sustaining peace.
Nigerian Christian leaders Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of the Abuja Catholic Arch Diocese, and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, applauded the several initiatives for peace in Nigeria and called for youths’ active participation in the campaign for peace in Nigeria and throughout the continent.
ECOWAS Commission President Desire Ouedraogo noted that while the African continent boasts of one of the fastest growing economies in the world, terrorism, piracy and other forms of transnational organized crime constitute “veritable time bombs” threatening the continent’s security and development.
Mr. Ouedraogo lamenting that youth—the continent’s most dynamic and productive force, endowed with enthusiasm, curiosity and commitment to democracy and good governance—are often the victims of marginalization and lack of opportunities and are now used as instruments for mindless violence and instability. He thus called for inspirational leadership to empower the young to build their spiritual, economic and political autonomy; to manifest their responsibility towards self and community; and, to contribute to the harmonious and peaceful development of their societies. His message was presented by Mrs. Hussaini Sulaiman.
The Global Peace Leadership Conference convened from November 7-9, 2013 and is hosted by the Global Peace Foundation and the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, established by the Federal Government of Nigeria to advance regional peace and conflict management and facilitate national and regional integration. Among the conference outcomes are the launch of the African Peace Service Corps and the Africa Leadership Mission on Peace-building, Young Leadership and Service. The former is a youth service network spanning Africa, uniting youth organizations in action on health, education, youth entrepreneurship, and conflict prevention and resolution and aimed at supporting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (2015) and sustainable peace.
The Africa Leadership Mission on Peace-building, Young Leadership and Service is co-chaired by Seychelles founding President Sir James Mancham and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, with support of Zambia’s founding President Kenneth David Kaunda, former Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, former Zanzibar President Amani Karume, African philanthropist Dr. Manu Chandaria, and Dr. Markendey Rai of United Nations Habitat.
—by Grace Awodu (GPF Nigeria) and from combined reports