This year, the International Peace Day on 21 September, had a special meaning for Africa as it was the culmination of the 2010 Year of Peace and Security, which was declared during the AU special session on the Consideration and Resolution of Conflicts in Africa held in Tripoli on August 31 2009. To mark the occasion the African Union Commission held special events to mark Peace Day. The first part of the programme for the day included delivery of the Make Peace Happen lesson plan to schools in Addis Ababa.
The second part of the programme was held at the AU. AUC Deputy Chairperson Mr. Erastus Mwencha highlighted the importance of the day, when he addressed delegates at the African Union headquarters today: “Peace Day affords us the chance to take stock and celebrate our hard won gains, to cherish the peace that we have, and to honour and commemorate those who have dedicated themselves to resolving conflicts and restoring security on our continent”, he said. The day offered “an unprecedented opportunity for African governments, citizens and institutions, in partnership with the international community, to come together and work towards a common goal, i.e., peace”, he added. He highlighted diplomats, peace keepers, humanitarian agencies, businesses and individuals from every walk of life as those involved in the quest for peace.
The gathering of diplomats, peace activists and AU Commission staff members was reminded that violent conflicts have decreased significantly since the mid 1990s. Through the years it has been involved in conflict resolution, the African Union has refined its engagement with stakeholders and its resource mobilization capacity. It has also enabled Africans to take ownership of the processes, said Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security at the African Union Commission. The Commissioner pointed out substantial gains that have been made, such as the strong foundations that have been laid in elections and good governance. A number of elections have been held on the continent this year, including those in Burundi, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia and Rwanda. A successful referendum was also concluded in Kenya.
In addition, the day was also a practical demonstration of the partnership between the AU and the United Nations; a partnership which also encompasses the regional Economic Communities, which have often taken the lead in responding to crises and conflicts in different parts of the continent. The AU has been working together with the United Nations in various interventions, for example, in the unprecedented AU-UN hybrid operation deployed in the Darfur region of Sudan and the assistance extended by the United Nations to the AU peace support mission in Somalia.
The AU and the UN are combining their comparative advantages to resolve conflicts, overcome their legacies and build new bridges between communities and countries that once saw themselves as irreconcilable enemies. They are also both involved in the work of preventing conflicts occurring in the first place and in long term efforts to address the underlying causes of conflict and violence. They are working together to build strong institutions and tools to provide the continent with the capacity required to meet the complex challenges facing it in the area of peace and security.
The day’s commemorations also witnessed the very significant awarding of the Interfaith Peace Building Initiative (IPI) award to the African Union for its efforts to bring peace to the continent. The award was handed over to Deputy Chairperson Mwencha. Later in the evening a musical concert organised jointly by the European Union and the African Union, and attended by hundreds of patrons was held at the National Theatre in celebration of peace day.
Prior to the peace day celebrations, a football match organized by the Staff Association and Peace and Security Directorate was held on Saturday 18 September 2010 at the AU footbal pitch.
Peace Day was also observed at the fisheries meeting that was being held in The Gambia. Fisheries experts, ministers and stakeholders who were attending the First Conference of African Ministers on Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) in the capital Banjul, also took time to observe peace day. Mr Ping’s statement was read out to the delegates by Dr Mary Maboreke, Executive Secretary, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The delegates observed a moment of silence to remember and honour victims of conflict.